Are Cataracts Reversible?

There is no way to reverse cataracts, but it may be possible to slow their progression. Early-stage cataracts may not noticeably affect your vision, and you may be able to manage changes in vision with glasses for some time. In any case, cataracts can eventually cause blindness. If you have cataracts, the only way to treat them is through surgical removal. 

How Can I Reduce My Risk of Developing Cataracts?

Cataracts develop in the lens of the eye, which is the clear part that helps to focus light. Cataracts commonly occur as we age, and more than half of all Americans over 80 either have cataracts or have had surgery to remove them. Age is a major risk factor for cataracts, but the NIH also lists the following: 

  • Certain health problems, such as diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Drinking alcohol 
  • Family history of cataracts
  • Prior eye injuries or surgeries
  • Radiation treatment on the upper body
  • Spending a lot of time in the sun
  • Taking steroids, which are sometimes used to treat arthritis or allergies

Managing your risk factors may help you prevent or slow the progression of cataracts. For instance, properly managing diabetes may put you at a reduced risk of cataracts. Likewise, stopping smoking or reducing your alcohol intake can also lower your risk of getting cataracts or help you slow them down if you already have them. 

3 Common Myths About Cataracts Reversal

Cataracts cannot be reversed, but there are a number of myths that lead to misconceptions about cataract reversal and alternative treatments. Here are three common myths that are important to disprove. 

Myth #1 You can buy eye drops that dissolve or prevent cataracts.

There are vendors marketing special eye drops that they promise can help you prevent cataracts from occurring or even dissolve cataracts that you already have. This is false. 

Limited research by a team of scientists from UC San Francisco, the University of Michigan, and Washington University found that a certain compound is soluble enough to potentially form the basis of a practical eye-drop medication for cataracts. However, this research never resulted in the production of a proven, nor were any clinical trials conducted. 

If you find eye drops that promise to prevent or reverse cataracts, they may be nothing more than saline solution at best or, at worse, contain untested compounds that could do harm to your long-term vision health. You should not use any product in your eyes unless it has been recommended by your eye doctor and cleared by the FDA. 

Myth #2 Cataracts can be reversed with natural remedies. 

While research continues into alternative methods for treating and reversing cataracts, there are simply no proven remedies available that can “dissolve” or get rid of cataracts. Currently, the only way to treat cataracts is through surgical removal of the damaged lens. 

Cataracts occur when proteins break down in the lens of the eye. The proteins and fibers accumulate in one area, causing an opaque spot. Because the lens is responsible for bending light so we can see, any opacity in the lens changes how we perceive light, which can make our vision appear blurry or hazy. Depending on where a cataract occurs on the surface of the eye, it can even cause a blind spot.  

The only way we currently know to remove cataracts is to physically take the damaged lens off the eye and replace it with a new, artificial lens. Any product that promises to cure cataracts will only lead to a patient delaying surgery and, in the meantime, their vision will likely degrade further. 

Myth #3 The right vitamins and minerals can prevent cataracts. 

You may hear people suggest the following as a means of preventing cataracts. Let’s take a closer look at why they don’t work. 

  • Vitamin supplements: In one study, researchers found that lutein and vitamin E significantly reduced the risk of cataracts during the 10-year study period. However, it has never been shown that taking vitamins can prevent cataracts entirely. 
  • Antioxidants: Although important for overall vision health, one study showed that antioxidant supplementation did not affect cataract progression in a population with a high prevalence of cataract whose diet is generally deficient in antioxidants. In other words, antioxidants made no difference in whether cataracts develop or worsen. 
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: Considered a superfood for eye health, omega-3 fatty acids can improve your ability to produce tears. While that part is true, there is no research to suggest that this can reduce a person’s risk of developing cataracts. 
  • Garlic: There is an untested home remedy that suggests eating garlic or drinking a garlic tea can slow the progression of cataracts. This is unproven. What we do know is that garlic can help keep cholesterol levels and blood pressure in check, potentially lowering other risk factors, but there is no direct link between garlic consumption and cataract development. 
  • Aloe vera: Various sources claim that taking aloe vera can slow or reverse the progression of cataracts, but these statements have not been proven. It’s touted as an antiseptic, but you should never put aloe vera in or near your eyes. 
  • Rose water: Rose water is another home remedy touted for its ability to prevent cataracts, supposedly by reducing dryness and inflammation. However, there is no scientific evidence to support the use of rose water for eye health, and you should never use it in your eyes. 

While vitamins and minerals are extremely important for vision health, they ultimately cannot prevent cataracts from forming.  Even with managing risk factors and eating an eye-healthy diet, you may still suffer from cataracts due to the natural breakdown of proteins as we age. 

Can Early-Stage Cataracts Be Reversed with Surgery?

Cataracts are not reversible, meaning we do not have a way to heal the damaged lens of the eye. Instead, that damaged lens must be removed if you wish to restore your vision. Surgery is the only confirmed treatment for cataracts, and the procedure is highly safe and effective.

People with early-stage cataracts may choose to delay surgery until they experience worsening symptoms (like blurry or hazy vision), but there’s no benefit to delaying surgery. Cataract surgery can be performed at any stage. In fact, late-stage cataracts may be more difficult to remove since they cause the lens of the eye to be harder, making it more difficult to break up and extract. 

Do You Have Questions?

Most people will experience cataracts as they grow older, but the good news is that cataracts don’t have to lead to permanent blindness. With today’s advanced surgical techniques, you can have cataracts safely removed and your vision wholly restored. 

If you’re wondering about your eye health, the best thing you can do is speak directly to your eye doctor. Book a consultation with SuraVision today by calling 713-730-2020