Cataract surgery is arguably the most common procedure performed around the world. Millions of people are affected by the cloudy and blurry vision caused by cataracts that commonly develop with age.
Surgery is presently the most effective way to remove cataracts from the eye entirely. Cataracts are progressive conditions with symptoms that often go unnoticed initially but worsen over time. Nonsurgical curative options offer ways to manage the symptoms before cataract surgery is necessary.
This nonsurgical treatment can effectively manage symptoms of cataracts, such as blurry vision, glare, and halos. Once the surgery is needed, about 90 percent of people experience better vision following the procedure.
Seasoned Scientists are investigating nonsurgical treatment options for cataracts. They are studying the causes of cataracts so treatment interventions, such as eye drops, can be developed as more affordable and accessible alternatives to cataract surgery.
Surgery is currently the only way to treat cataracts, but it is not recommended for everyone. Cataract surgery may not be helpful or practical for people with underlying or additional eye problems until the other problems are solved. For these people and others who wish to avoid surgery or do not yet need surgery, nonsurgical treatments can manage symptoms until surgery is warranted.
Surgery and lens options can be recommended based on your vision goals. Speaking with your regular ophthalmologist or eye surgeon can help determine if cataract surgery is the best corrective measure to address your vision imperfections and overall health goals.
Nonsurgical Treatment Options
It is true that cataract surgery is widely known as a safe and effective procedure, but it does not mean it’s the right treatment approach for everyone with eye defects. Until cataracts inhibit your vision enough that you can no longer do activities that you wish to do, surgery is usually not recommended. Once cataracts are a severe problem, surgery is currently the only way to remove them.
Here are tips for supporting your eye health once you know you have cataracts:
- Receive a comprehensive eye exam every year once you are over 65. If you are younger, get an exam once every two years.
- Always protect your eyes from UV light by wearing sunglasses and a hat.
- If you smoke, quit, as it is a risk factor for cataracts.
- Stay on top of other health problems, particularly diabetes.
- Make sure your eyeglass or contact lens prescriptions are current.
Success Rates of Alternative Cataract Treatments
Nonsurgical cataract treatment options can successfully minimize the impact of cataracts and slow their progression. However, they can’t make cataracts disappear. The National Eye Institute explains that cataract surgery is the only way to eliminate cataracts.
Although surgery is the only treatment option for cataracts, medical experts offer some home treatment options for managing cataracts early on.
- Use brighter lights at home and work.
- Wear UV-protective sunglasses.
- Use magnifying lenses to read and perform other activities that require up-close vision.
When you can no longer manage your cataracts successfully, cataract surgery may be recommended. Your eye doctor can recommend surgery if you can no longer do your daily routines like reading, driving, watching television, and exercising.
Although many people wish to avoid surgery for as long as possible, about 90 percent of people who undergo cataract surgery can see clearly following the surgery.
Research on different Alternatives to Cataract Surgery
Yes, cataract surgery is presently the only corrective measure for removing cataracts entirely from the eye, scientists are still working on nonsurgical alternatives. Top researchers from different shares of the globe are collaborating with other scientists to revolutionize the treatment of cataracts and presbyopia.
Scientists have been studying the fundamentals of proteins in the eye lens to understand better how light passes through your lens and is then distributed by proteins and biopolymers.
Cataracts form when molecules in the lens form clumps and light are not appropriately scattered onto the retina. By having a better understanding of how these clumps form and affect vision, scientists will hopefully be able to develop an approach to correct the problem.
NEI also supports research initiatives to identify how to diagnose cataracts earlier, the causes of the problem, and how to treat them better. One such study is working to reverse the progression of cataracts and prevent them from developing in the first place. Researchers also hope to develop a non-surgical treatment option that is less expensive, more accessible worldwide, and poses fewer risks after surgery than traditional cataract procedures.
A 2015 animal study also investigated nonsurgical treatment approaches to cataracts. It studied the efficacy of eye drops in treating cloudy vision caused by cataracts. Researchers discovered that an organic compound, lanosterol, can help to dissolve the proteins that clump together and form cataracts.
In the study, lanosterol eye drops entirely cleared the vision of dogs with cataracts after six weeks of treatment. For people with moderate cataracts who do not have access to surgery, cannot afford traditional cataract surgery, or wish to pursue a non-surgical treatment option, lanosterol eye drops may be a promising treatment. Such eye drops may even play a preventative role in stopping people who are at risk of developing cataracts in the first place.
Surgical vs. Nonsurgical Treatment for Cataracts
Currently, there are no permanent nonsurgical treatment options for cataracts. Surgery is the only way to remove cataracts from your eye entirely.
Nonsurgical treatment options exist to help manage the symptoms of cataracts, reduce their severity, and slow their progression. Additionally, surgical treatment of cataracts is not recommended for everyone.
If you have other eye conditions or a disease that impacts your vision, cataract surgery may not be recommended. It is unlikely that cataract surgery will significantly improve your vision in such cases. Underlying eye problems must be addressed before cataract surgery can be considered.
If your vision is affected by cataracts, speak with your eye doctor about all of your treatment options. They can help you determine the severity of your cataracts, how you might be able to manage the symptoms, and if it is time for you to consider surgery.