written by: Rose Kivi
• edited by: dianahardin
• updated: 5/10/2011
Cataracts occur when protein collects on the lens in the eye, causing the lens to become cloudy; this cloudiness interferes with vision. People commonly want to know how to reverse cataracts. It may be possible to prevent cataracts from getting worse, with prevention, nutrition and medication.
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Cataracts can occur on part of the lens or the entire lens. Age, a family history of cataracts, metabolic disorders, certain medications and lifestyle habits increase the chances of developing cataracts. There are several different types of cataracts:
Congenital cataracts are present at birth or appear shortly after birth and are a very rare type of cataract. Congenital cataracts usually occur in both eyes.
Age-related cataracts appear in older persons, typically over 60 years old. They can occur in one or both eyes and are common. Roughly one-half of people have cataracts or have had surgery for cataracts by the time they are 80 years old, estimates the National Eye Institute.
Traumatic cataracts are those caused by an injury to the eye.
Secondary cataracts occur in people who have other diseases that make them more susceptible to cataracts, such as diabetes. Secondary cataracts also occur in people who take medications that increase the chances of cataracts, such as steroids.
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How to Reverse Cataracts
The only way to get rid of cataracts is surgery. Surgery is usually reserved for patients who have severe cataracts that seriously impair vision. Even though cataracts cannot be reversed without surgery, it is possible to prevent them from progressing, with proper nutrition and medication.
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By taking good care of the eyes, it may be possible to halt, or at least slow down, the progression of cataracts. Two important prevention steps are to not smoke cigarettes or be around second-hand smoke and to always wear sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection, when outdoors. Smoking and UV rays are two factors that can cause and worsen cataracts. Another way to help prevent the progression of cataracts is to keep metabolic disorders, such as diabetes, under control. Patients with diabetes should take care to properly control their blood sugar levels.
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A healthy diet should be maintained, to provide the body with all the nutrients it needs for good eye health. Drink six 8-oz glasses of water a day. Minimize the amount of processed, fatty and sugary foods in the diet. Eat plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, lean protein sources (skinless chicken, fish, tofu, legumes and beans) and cook with healthy oils, such as olive oil. Vary the fresh foods in the diet, so that a balanced amount of nutrients are ingested. Eat colorful fruits and vegetables; the darker the color, the more antioxidants they have, and antioxidants are good for eye health. Another way to get antioxidants is to drink green tea.
Ensure an ample supply of vitamins by taking a multivitamin each day that contains vitamins A, C, E, D, the B-complex vitamins, and the minerals magnesium, calcium, zinc and selenium. The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends taking the following supplements to promote eye health:
1 to 2 fish oil capsules once or twice a day
500 to 1,000 mg of vitamin C two to three times a day
The American Optometric Association (AOA) reviewed multiple studies, which found that people who consumed at an average of 6 mg of lutein and zeaxanthin a day were less likely to develop new cataracts. This is not a surprise, since "lutein and zeaxanthin are the only carotenoids found in the lens," says the AOA.
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A diabetic patient who has cataracts should talk to an eye doctor about using aldose reductase inhibitors, which may reduce the formation of cataracts in people with diabetes.
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If cataracts progress to the point where patients have difficulty seeing and getting around, surgery may be the best option. Cataract surgery is a commonly performed surgery and has a high success rate, with approximately 90 percent of people gaining better vision after the surgery. During the surgery, the surgeon removes the lens and replaces it with an artificial one.
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This article is not meant to act as or replace medical advice. Always see your eye doctor if you suspect cataracts. While most cataracts do not require surgery, unless vision is severely effected, some cataracts are accompanied by other conditions such as glaucoma, which require treatment.