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Cataracts -The options

Posted by Gerhard Fourie on

Written on the 1 May 2013 by The Compounding Team

What is a cataract?

The most common cause of loss of vision in people over the age of 40, and principle cause of blindness is the formation of a cataract. A cataract is clouding of the lens inside the eye which leads to a decrease in vision. Because the lens has becomes opaque, the light passing through the lens is obstructed and not sharply focused on to the retina at the back of the eye.[1]

It is recognised that individuals with cataract commonly experience difficulty appreciating colours and changes in contrast, driving, reading, recognizing faces, and experience problems coping with glare from bright lights.[2]

The condition is most commonly attributed to biological aging but it may be accelerated by toxic stress, dehydration and heavy metal poisoning.[3]  The final result is a yellow-brown pigment deposit which reduces the transmission of light.

What are the causes of this condition?
Various agents are attributed, such as ageing, trauma, radiation, genetics, skin diseases, certain medications, other diseases and smoking.[4]

Some sources indicate high concentrations of heavy metals in the lens of the eyes, often three times higher in eyes with cataracts. These heavy metals are identified as bromine, cobalt, cadmium, nickel and lead, with cigarette smoke cited as a leading source of cadmium.[5]

Conventional Treatment
The conventional treatment of cataracts is surgery. Surgery is usually 'outpatient' and performed using local anaesthesia. Nine out of 10 people who have cataract surgery regain very good vision, somewhere between 20/20 and 20/40.

During surgery, the surgeon will remove the clouded lens and in most cases replace it with a clear, plastic intraocular lens (IOL).

New IOLs are being developed all the time to make the surgery less complicated for surgeons and the lenses more helpful to patients. Presbyopia-correcting IOLs potentially help one see at all distances, not just one. Another new type of IOL blocks both ultraviolet and blue light rays, which research indicates may damage the retina.[6]

Non-surgical treatment

Success with eye drops in the early stages of cataracts has been reported.[7] This formula uses DMSO, a solvent which has an extremely high rate of tissue permeability. This helps the active ingredients Glutathione and Vitamin C to penetrate into the eye.  
  • DMSO—6.25 percent
  • Vitamin C—1.25 percent
  • Glutathione—1.25 percent
N-acetylcarnosine has been investigated as a medical treatment for cataract. The drops are believed to work by reducing oxidation and glycation damage in the lens, particularly reducing crystalline cross linking.[8][9]

A more complex formula has also been developed where L-Carnosine is added to provide immediate neutralization of existing free radicals. N-Acetyl-L-Carnosine provides a longer-term of protection due to its longer residence and activity time in the cells. L-Glutathione is used as it may be the single most important antioxidant in the lens. Cysteine Ascorbate was developed to provide a water stable source of both Vitamin C (an important antioxidant in the eye) and L-Cysteine is used to regenerate or reduce oxidized L-Glutathione in the eye.[10]

Prevention and CoQ10
CoQ10, particularly its reduced form Ubiquinol, is also thought to play a role in assisting the prevention of cataract formation.[11] CoQ10 is an important anti-oxidant and the premise is therefore that oxidative stress and damage to the lens will be less, if not prevented, with the intake of CoQ10. Certainly adequate CoQ10 is required for healthy living.

REFERENCES and suggested Further Reading

1. Quillen DA (July 1999). "Common causes of vision loss in elderly patients". Am Fam Physician 60 (1): 99–108. PMID 10414631.
2. Allen, D.; Vasavada, A. (Jul 2006). "Cataract and surgery for cataract.". BMJ 333 (7559): 128–32. doi:10.1136/bmj.333.7559.128. PMID 16840470.
8. Williams DL, Munday P (2006). "The effect of a topical antioxidant formulation including N-acetyl carnosine on canine cataract: a preliminary study". Vet Ophthalmol 9 (5): 311–6. doi:10.1111/j.1463-5224.2006.00492.x. PMID 16939459.
9. Guo Y, Yan H (2006). "Preventive effect of carnosine on cataract development". Yan Ke Xue Bao 22 (2): 85–8. PMID 17162883.
11. Coenzyme Q10 prevents human lens epithelial cells from light-induced apoptotic cell death by reducing oxidative stress and stabilizing BAX / Bcl-2 ratio," Kernt M, Hirneiss C, et al, Acta Ophthalmol, 2010 April 1


Always read the label on any medication and use only as directed. Vitamin and other supplements should not replace a balanced diet, unless so instructed by your medical practitioner. If symptoms persist, seek further health advice. The information presented above is not intended to replace the advice of your medical practitioner.

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