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Health Condition

Cataracts

About This Condition

Cataract is a cloudiness in the lens of the eye caused by damage to the protein of the lens. This damage impairs vision.

Most people who live long enough will develop cataracts.1 Cataracts are more likely to occur in those who smoke, have diabetes, or are exposed to excessive sunlight. All of these factors lead to oxidative damage. Oxidative damage to the lens of the eye appears to cause cataracts in animals2 and people.3

It is unlikely that any nutritional supplements or herbs can reverse existing cataracts, although it is possible they might help prevent cataracts from becoming worse.

Symptoms

Cataracts usually develop slowly without any pain or redness of the eye. The most common symptoms of a cataract are fuzzy or blurred vision, increasing need for light when reading or doing other close work, visual disturbances caused by bright lights (e.g., sunlight, car headlights), faded color perception, poor night vision, and frequent need to change eyeglass or contact lens prescriptions. A cataract will not spread from one eye to the other, although many people develop cataracts in both eyes.

Other Therapies

In the beginning stages, magnifying lenses, stronger eyeglasses, and brighter lighting may compensate for the vision problems caused by cataracts. Once the vision problems affect daily activities, surgery may be necessary to replace the clouded lens with a clear artificial lens. For many people, the lens capsule remaining in the eye after surgery eventually turns cloudy, causing additional loss of vision.

References

1. Kahn HA, Leibowitz HM, Ganley JP, et al. The Framingham Eye Study: I. Outline and major prevalence findings. Am J Epidemiol 1977;106:17-32.

2. Schocket SS, Esterson J, Bradford B, et al. Induction of cataracts in mice by exposure to oxygen. Isr J Med Sci 1972;8:1596-601.

3. Palmquist B, Phillipson B, Barr P. Nuclear cataract and myopia during hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Br J Ophthalmol 1984;68:113-7.

4. Jacques PF, Chylack LT Jr. Epidemiologic evidence of a role for the antioxidant vitamins and carotenoids in cataract prevention. Am J Clin Nutr 1991;53:352S-5S.

5. Knekt P, Heliovaara M, Rissanen A, et al. Serum antioxidant vitamins and risk of cataract. BMJ 1992;305:1392-4.

6. Hankinson SE, Stampfer MJ, Seddon JM, et al. Nutrient intake and cataract extraction in women: a prospective study. Br Med J 1992;305(6849):335-9.

7. Chasan-Taber L, Willett WC, Seddon JM, et al. A prospective study of carotenoid and vitamin A intakes and risk of cataract extraction in US women. Am J Clin Nutr 1999;70:509-16.

8. Yeum K-J, Taylor A, Tang G, Russell RM. Measurement of carotenoids, retinoids, and tocopherols in human lenses. Ophthalmol Vis Sci 1995;36:2756-61.

9. Lyle BJ, Mares-Perlman JA, Klein BE, et al. Antioxidant intake and risk of incident age-related nuclear cataracts in the Beaver Dam Eye Study. Am J Epidemiol 1999;149:801-9.

10. Chew EY, SanGiovanni JP, Ferris FL, et al. Lutein/zeaxanthin for the treatment of age-related cataract: AREDS2 randomized trial report no. 4. JAMA Ophthalmol 2013;131:843–50.

11. Jacques PF, Chylack LT Jr. Epidemiologic evidence of a role for the antioxidant vitamins and carotenoids in cataract prevention. Am J Clin Nutr 1991;53:352S-5S.

12. Knekt P, Heliovaara M, Rissanen A, et al. Serum antioxidant vitamins and risk of cataract. BMJ 1992;305:1392-4.

13. Bhat KS. Nutritional status of thiamine, riboflavin and pyridoxine in cataract patients. Nutr Rep Internat 1987;36:685-92.

14. Prchal JT, Conrad ME, Skalka HW. Association of presenile cataracts with heterozygosity for galactosaemic states and with riboflavin deficiency. Lancet 1978; 1:12-3.

15. Sperduto RD, Hu TS, Milton RC, et al. The Linxian cataract studies. Arch Ophthalmol 1993;111:1246-53.

16. Jacques PF, Chylack LT Jr. Epidemiologic evidence of a role for the antioxidant vitamins and carotenoids in cataract prevention. Am J Clin Nutr 1991;53:352S-5S.

17. Knekt P, Heliovaara M, Rissanen A, et al. Serum antioxidant vitamins and risk of cataract. BMJ 1992;305:1392-4.

18. Hankinson SE, Stampfer MJ, Seddon JM, et al. Nutrient intake and cataract extraction in women: a prospective study. Br Med J 1992;305(6849):335-9.

19. Chasan-Taber L, Willett WC, Seddon JM, et al. A prospective study of vitamin supplement intake and cataract extraction among U.S. women. Epidemiology 1999;10:679-84.

20. Teikari JM, Virtamo J, Rautalahti M, et al. Long-term supplementation with alpha-tocopherol and beta-carotene and age-related cataract. Acta Ophthalmol Scand 1997;75:634-40.

21. Van Acker SA, van den Berg DJ, Tromp MN, et al. Structural aspects of antioxidant activity of flavonoids. Free Rad Biol Med1996; 20:331-42.

22. Salvayre R, Braquet P, Perruchot T, DousteBlazy L. Comparison of the scavenger effect of bilberry anthocyanosides with various flavonoids. Proceed Intl Bioflavonoids Symposium, Munich, 1981, 437-42.

23. Bravetti G. Preventive medical treatment of senile cataract with vitamin E and anthocyanosides: Clinical evaluation. Ann Ottalmol Clin Ocul 1989;115:109 [in Italian].

24. Varma SD, Mizuno A, Kinoshita JH. Diabetic cataracts and flavonoids. Science 1977;195:205.

25. Jacques PF, Chylack LT Jr. Epidemiologic evidence of a role for the antioxidant vitamins and carotenoids in cataract prevention. Am J Clin Nutr 1991;53:352S-5S.

26. Knekt P, Heliovaara M, Rissanen A, et al. Serum antioxidant vitamins and risk of cataract. BMJ 1992;305:1392-4.

27. Bhat KS. Nutritional status of thiamine, riboflavin and pyridoxine in cataract patients. Nutr Rep Internat 1987;36:685-92.

28. Prchal JT, Conrad ME, Skalka HW. Association of presenile cataracts with heterozygosity for galactosaemic states and with riboflavin deficiency. Lancet 1978; 1:12-3.

29. Sperduto RD, Hu TS, Milton RC, et al. The Linxian cataract studies. Arch Ophthalmol 1993;111:1246-53.

30. Jacques PF, Chylack LT Jr. Epidemiologic evidence of a role for the antioxidant vitamins and carotenoids in cataract prevention. Am J Clin Nutr 1991;53:352S-5S.

31. Knekt P, Heliovaara M, Rissanen A, et al. Serum antioxidant vitamins and risk of cataract. BMJ 1992;305:1392-4.

32. Taylor A, Jacques PF, Nadler D, et al. Relationship in humans between ascorbic acid consumption and levels of total and reduce ascorbic acid in lens, aqueous humor, and plasma. Curr Eye Res 1991;10:751-9.

33. Reddy VN. Glutathione and its function in the lens—an overview. Exp Eye Res 1990;150:771-8.

34. Packer JE, Slater TF, Wilson RL. Direct observation of a free radical interaction between vitamin E and vitamin C. Nature 1979;278:737-8.

35. Mares-Perlman JA, Lyle BJ, Klein R, et al. Vitamin supplement use and incident cataracts in a population-based study. Arch Ophthalmol 2000;118:1556-63.

36. Taylor A. Cataract: relationship between nutrition and oxidation. J Am Coll Nutr 1993;12:138-46 [review].

37. Jacques PF, Chylack LT, McGandy RB, Hartz SC. Antioxidant status in persons with and without senile cataract. Arch Ophthalmol 1988;106:337-40.

38. Robertson JMD, Donner AP, Trevithick JR. Vitamin E intake and risk of cataracts in humans. Ann NY Acad Sci 1989;570:372-82.

39. Seddon JM, Christen WG, Manson JE, et al. The use of vitamin supplements and the risk of cataract among US male physicians. Am J Public Health 1994;84:788-92.

40. Lyle BJ, Mares-Perlman JA, Klein BE, et al. Antioxidant intake and risk of incident age-related nuclear cataracts in the Beaver Dam Eye Study. Am J Epidemiol 1999;149:801-9.

41. Chasan-Taber L, Willett WC, Seddon JM, et al. A prospective study of vitamin supplement intake and cataract extraction among U.S. women. Epidemiology 1999;10:679-84.

42. Robertson J McD, Donner AP, Trevithick JR. A possible role for vitamins C and E in cataract prevention. Am J Clin Nutr 1991;53:346S-51S.

43. Hankinson SE, Stampfer MJ, Seddon JM, et al. Nutrient intake and cataract extraction in women: a prospective study. Br Med J 1992;305(6849):335-9.

44. Jacques PF, Taylor A, Hankinson SE, et al. Long-term vitamin C supplement use and prevalence of early age-related lens opacities. Am J Clin Nutr 1997;66:911-6.

45. Jacques PF, Chylack LT Jr. Epidemiologic evidence of a role for the antioxidant vitamins and carotenoids in cataract prevention. Am J Clin Nutr 1991;53:352S-5S.

46. Knekt P, Heliovaara M, Rissanen A, et al. Serum antioxidant vitamins and risk of cataract. BMJ 1992;305:1392-4.

47. Rouhiainen P, Rouhiainen H, Salonen JT. Association between low plasma vitamin E concentration and progression of early cortical lens opacities. Am J Epidemiol 1996;144:496-500.

48. Lyle BJ, Mares-Perlman JA, Klein BE, et al. Serum carotenoids and tocopherols and incidence of age-related nuclear cataract. Am J Clin Nutr 1999;69:272-7.

49. Lyle BJ, Mares-Perlman JA, Klein BE, et al. Antioxidant intake and risk of incident age-related nuclear cataracts in the Beaver Dam Eye Study. Am J Epidemiol 1999;149:801-9.

50. Chasan-Taber L, Willett WC, Seddon JM, et al. A prospective study of vitamin supplement intake and cataract extraction among U.S. women. Epidemiology 1999;10:679-84.

51. Trevithick JR, Creighton MO, Ross WM, et al. Modelling cortical cataractogenesis: 2. In vitro effects on the lens of agents preventing glucose- and sorbitol-induced cataracts. Can J Ophthalmol 1981;16:32-8.

52. Robertson J McD, Donner AP, Trevithick JR. A possible role for vitamins C and E in cataract prevention. Am J Clin Nutr 1991;53:346S-51S.

53. Seddon JM, Christen WG, Manson JE, et al. The use of vitamin supplements and the risk of cataract among US male physicians. Am J Public Health 1994;84:788-92.

54. Leske MC, Chylack LT Jr, He Q, et al. Antioxidant vitamins and nuclear opacities. The Longitudinal Study of Cataract. Ophthalmology 1998;105:831-6.

55. Teikari JM, Virtamo J, Rautalahti M, et al. Long-term supplementation with alpha-tocopherol and beta-carotene and age-related cataract. Acta Ophthalmol Scand 1997;75:634-40.

56. Schaumberg DA, Glynn RJ, Christen WG, et al. Relations of body fat distribution and height with cataracts in men. Am J Clin Nutr 2000;72:1495-502.

57. Glynn RJ, Christen WG, Manson JE, et al. Body mass index. An independent predictor of cataract. Arch Ophthalmol 1995;113:1131-7.

58. Hankinson SE, Seddon JM, Colditz GA, et al. A prospective study of aspirin use and cataract extraction in women. Arch Ophthalmol 1993;111:503-8.

59. Hiller R, Podgor MJ, Sperduto RD, et al. A longitudinal study of body mass index and lens opacities. The Framingham Studies. Ophthalmology 1998;105:1244-50.

60. Tavani A, Negri E, La Vecchia C. Selected diseases and risk of cataract in women. A case-control study from northern Italy. Ann Epidemiol 1995;5:234-8.

61. Leske MC, Chylack LT Jr, Wu SY. The Lens Opacities Case-Control Study. Risk factors for cataract. Arch Ophthalmol 1991;109:244-51.

62. Mohan M, Sperduto RD, Angra SK, et al. India-US case-control study of age-related cataracts. India-US Case-Control Study Group. Arch Ophthalmol 1989;107:670-6. [published erratum appears in Arch Ophthalmol 1989;107:1288.]

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The information presented by Healthnotes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2018.

Copyright © 2018 Healthnotes, Inc. All rights reserved.

The information presented by Healthnotes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2018.