What are Cataracts?
Cataracts are opacities that form in the lens of the eye, causing visual obstruction. They arise when proteins in the eye form aggregates due to incorrect three-dimensional structure. There are several factors that cause proteins to aggregate, including oxidative stress and glycation. Cataracts are the most common cause of blindness and are generally treated with surgery.
The formation of cataracts is associated with diabetes, but many people may not be aware that higher-than-normal blood glucose levels, even if not clinically considered diabetes, can contribute to cataracts.
Natural interventions including antioxidants such as vitamin C and riboflavin, as well as glycation inhibitors such as carnosine and carnitine, may help reduce the risk of cataract formation.
What are the Risk Factors for Cataracts?
- Gender – women are more likely to develop cataracts
- Poor nutrition
- Exposure to ionizing radiation such as X-rays or UV rays
- Smoking and drinking alcohol
- Genetic predisposition
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Cataracts?
Note: Depending on the type of cataract, the symptoms can vary. Some common symptoms of the different types of cataracts include:
- Seeing double or multiple images
- Difficulty distinguishing colors
- Glare or halos around lights
- Impaired ability to see in bright lights
How are Cataracts Conventionally Treated?
What Emerging Therapies Appear Promising for Cataracts?
- Combining non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) with surgery
What Dietary or Lifestyle Changes Can Help Prevent Cataracts?
- Quitting smoking
- Limiting exposure to UV radiation by wearing sunglasses
- Limiting alcohol consumption
- Increasing intake of fruits and vegetables, as they are natural sources of antioxidants
- Avoiding foods high in saturated fats and consuming more omega-3 fatty acids
- Controlling blood glucose levels
What Natural Interventions May Be Beneficial for Preventing Cataracts?
- Glutathione. Glutathione scavenges free radicals in the lens, preventing oxidative damage to the proteins.
- Vitamin C. Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant to support healthy proteins in the lens and is linked with lower incidence of cataract development.
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin). Riboflavin is an essential component of flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD), which is used by the enzyme that converts glutathione to its bioactive form. High riboflavin levels have been associated with reduced risk of cataract formation.
- Vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 has been shown to reduce the production of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) in diabetic lenses.
- Vitamin E. Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant and low levels are associated with an increased risk of developing cataracts.
- Other antioxidants and glycation inhibitors that can help prevent cataracts are N-acetylcysteine,lipoic acid, melatonin,carnosine, carnitine, and quercetin.
- Carotenoids. Carotenoids (a type of plant pigment) such as lutein, zeaxanthin, and meso-zeaxanthin can absorb light and prevent damage caused by UV rays. They are found in high concentrations in the eye and can help prevent cataract formation.
- Other interventions for healthy eyes include bilberry, green and black tea, resveratrol, and selenium.