WHAT IS A CATARACT?
A cataract means a cloudy or opacified lens. The natural crystalline lens is the middle window which separates the front (anterior) and back (posterior) segments of the eye. In a normal eye, the lens focuses light entering the eye onto the retina.
As you age, your natural lens will become gradually more cloudy and form a cataract. This is accompanied by your sight gradually becoming more and more foggy and misty as you grow older.
The gold standard treatment for cataract is phacoemulsification surgery with intraocular lens implantation. But must everyone who has cataract (lens opacities) undergo surgery?
The answer is of course no. While the mainstay of therapy is cataract surgery, this does not mean that you have to undergo surgery if you prefer not to. An operation will be the most effective treatment, but complementary therapies may have a role to play for different people in different circumstances.
While some people may have benefited from these therapies, they may not be suitable for everyone. Indeed, there is no official endorsement for alternative medicine in the treatment or prevention of cataract. If you are interested in these more natural or holistic remedies, it is recommended that you consult with a registered practitioner for a thorough evaluation before starting on treatment.
So what are the complementary and holistic options that are available?
Pirenoxine is a xanthomatine derivative that is said to be effective in reducing the oxidation process in the lens that causes cataract. It has been used worldwide for early stage cataracts for over 50 years. Pirenoxine eye drops are marketed under several brand names, including: Catalin, Baineiting, Clarvisan and Clarvisor.
N-Acetyl Carnosine is an antioxidant that occurs naturally throughout the muscles in the body. It inhibits the oxidation and glycation processes in the lens, and may also restore certain lens proteins. Instilling N-Acetyl Carnosine eye drops twice daily for at least 6 months has been reported to improve vision in 90% of eyes with cataract. Brand names include: Can-C, NuEyes, Bright Eyes and Brite Eyes.
Dihydroazapentacene is also a natural antioxidant that protects the lens from oxidation. Additionally, it promotes the resorption of opaque proteins from the lens by activating the proteolytic enzymes naturally contained within the eye. It is said to be able to slow the progress of early cataract when used as eye drops. It is marketed as Quinax.
There are several homeopathic remedies that may be able to alleviate the symptoms of cataract and to slow its progress. Please note that it is inappropriate for you to consume everything listed below without due consultation with a homeopathic practitioner. In particular, your homeopathic practitioner will need to take into account your overall health and any associated general maladies first before prescribing the required treatment or combination of treatments.
Calcarea carbonica. It is generally used in the early stages before the cataract becomes symptomatic. A person requiring calcarea commonly has weight problems and often easily feels overwhelmed when under stress.
Natrum muriaticum. This is more commonly used when the cataract begins to develop and is associated with eyes that feel weak and bruised. A person requiring natrum muriaticum tends to have a strong desire for salt and feels worse when under the sun.
Causticum. Helpful for those with lens opacities as well as difficulties with moving the eyes, from either weakness or stiffness of the eyeball muscles. A person requiring causticum often has stiffness in other parts of the body and feels worse in the cold.
Phosphorus. Useful for those who are experiencing a veil or mist effect over their vision, or for those with soreness and eyestrain despite little use of the eyes. A person requiring phosphorus usually tires easily and craves for cold drinks.
Ruta graveolens. Generally used in in more advanced cases. It may be beneficial for those in whom the vision is dimmed. A person requiring ruta graveolens often feels weak and tired, and has eyes that burn and feel hot.
Silica / Silicea. For use when the lens opacity starts to impair vision especially after periods of eyestrain. It is also used when the cataract is associated with skin eruptions or foot sweats. A person requiring silica often tires easily, has low resistance to infection, and has weak nails.
TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE
From a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) viewpoint, eye problems including lens opacities are due to deficiencies in the kidney meridian. However, imbalances of the liver, spleen and stomach also result in deficiencies in the lens. Treatments are aimed at addressing these imbalances. The formulations of herbs and chi correction points depend upon the cause of the imbalance. It is important to consult a certified TCM practitioner before embarking on a course of TCM treatments. The 5 most well-known daily prescriptions are:
Liver/Kidney Deficiency (Qi Ju Di Huang Tang): Rehmannia 24g, Cornus 12g, Dioscorea 12g, Alisma 9g, Chrysanthemum 9g, Hoelen 9g, Lycium 9g, Moutan 9g
Spleen Qi Deficiency (Yi Qi Cong Ming Tang): Vitex 12g, Peony 9g, Phellodendron 9g, Astragalus 6g, Ginseng 6g, Baked licorice 3g, Pueraria 3g
Yin Deficiency and Damp Heat (Gan Lu Yin): Eriobotrya 24g, Asparagus 12g, Ophiopogon 12g, Ching-hao 9g, Dendrobium 9g, Rehmannia 9g, Rehmannia (raw) 9g, Scute 9g, Licorice 6g
Liver/Kidney Deficiency (Bu Yin Hu Shen Tang):
Rehmannia 24g, Black sesame 12g, Cassia seed 12g, Lycium 12g, Morus fruit 12g, Alisma 10g, Dioscorea 10g, Hoelen 10g, Moutan 10g, Schizandra 10g, Tang kuei 10g
Liver Deficiency and Spleen Damp (Si Wu Tang & Er Chen Tang):
Rehmannia 18g, Cnidium 10g, Citrus 10g, Licorice 10g, Peony 10g, Pinellia 10g, Plantago 10g, Tang kuei 10g
Some TCM herb formulations have been conveniently packaged into pills. These formulations include:
- Dendrobium Night Sight Pills (Shi Hu Ye Guang Wan)
- Brighten the Eyes (Ming Mu Di Huang Wan)
- Preserve Vistas Pill (Zhu Jing Wan)
- Lycium, Chrysanthemum and Rehmannia Pill (Qi Ju Di Huang Wan)
- Rehmannia Eight Formula (Ba Wei Di Huan Wan)
Acupuncture points for the eye include: Bladder 1, Bladder 2, Gallbladder 1, Gall Bladder 37, Stomach 1, Stomach 36, Liver 4, Kidney 3, Spleen 6, Triple Warmer 6 and Conception Vessel 4.
Learn more about how cataract progression may be delayed here
Eye acupressure involves massaging the major acupressure points that are beneficial to the eye. This helps to correct any deficiencies in the nourishment of the eye. This also relaxes the eye and facial muscles, and relieves any eye strain from blurry vision.
The acupuncture and acupressure are designed to relieve or unblock any disruptions to chi flow to the eye. By correcting these deficiencies, it is hoped that balance within the eye environment will be restored. The number and frequency of treatments required will depend on the severity of imbalance of the meridians related to the eye.
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