Learn more about cataracts and cataract treatment

In the United States, approximately four million people have some degree of cataracts, while 40,000 are blinded due to cataracts. One in every five people over 55 are afflicted with cataracts, and as many as half of those over 75 are at risk. Worldwide, cataracts are the leading cause of blindness.

The standard treatment for cataracts is surgery. In fact, cataract surgery is the most common of all surgical procedures practiced in the United States, with more than 500,000 performed each and every year.

94% of cataract surgeries are successful, with lower vision resulting in less than 6 out of every 100 procedures. It is one of the safest operations in the world, but it still has some degree of risk associated with it.

Even though the surgical treatment for cataracts is highly successful, it is an extremely costly procedure. Each cataract surgery (one eye only) done in the United States costs approximately $5,000. Every year, over 4 billion dollars are spent — just by Medicare alone! — for cataract surgery.

As people live longer and longer, the incidence of cataracts can only increase, if no preventative measures are taken. If the development of cataracts could be delayed by 10 years, the National Eye Institute estimates that half of all cataract surgery could be eliminated, saving billions of dollars every year in medical costs.

What is a cataract?

Light enters the eye through the lens. The healthy lens is completely transparent — as clear as the water in a glass — and allows light to enter unobstructed. It is also pliable and elastic so that it can respond to changes in focusing.

The lens is growing throughout life with layer upon layer of new cells growing on top of the center (nucleus) of the lens, much like the rings of a tree. Therefore the lens becomes thicker as it grows (its nucleus has the same cells it had at birth). Without protective or preventative measures, it becomes more and more difficult over time for the nucleus to receive all the nutrients that it needs.

If the breakdown in the nucleus continues, the lens becomes cloudy and loses its transparency. This is a cataract.1

A cataract starts out small and, if left untreated, gets larger over time, becoming thicker and thicker and covering more and more of the lens. A cataract needs to grow large enough before surgery can be performed; that's why ordinary medical advice is to sit back and wait until the cataract is large enough — "ripe" — for surgery. Fortunately, it is during this early "growing" stage that nutritional treatment can be the most successful.

Nuclear cataract — a cataract that begins in the center (nucleus) of the lens — is the most common kind of cataract, affecting people as they age. But there are two other types as well: Anterior cortical cataract (cloudiness forms in the front of the lens) and posterior, subcapsular cataract (cloudiness forms in the back of the lens). Both of these types occur much more rarely.

There is plenty of evidence that cataracts can be prevented, and their growth arrested, with proper nutrition. According to both Drs. Lane and Todd, prevention is the key. "With the right nutritional supplements, prevention rates could be very close to 100%," says Dr. Todd.

Most research in the United States has focused on the prevention of cataracts. It is a generally accepted fact that cataracts are a degenerative disease caused by free radical damage and that they can be prevented with anti-oxidant vitamins C and E, beta carotene and some trace minerals, including selenium and chromium.

The eye has the highest concentration of vitamin C of any part of the body. Yet, lenses with cataracts have much lower levels of vitamin C than cataract-free lenses. The eye with a cataract has also been shown to be deficient in selenium, copper, manganese, zinc and glutathione (which the body normally produces on its own, but only if adequate levels of selenium are present). Some of the B vitamins — particularly niacin and riboflavin — have also been deficient in the eye with a cataract, though this deficiency is rare in the United States, where many processed foods are "enriched" with these vitamins. Excesses of mercury and other toxins have also been implicated.

According to a recent study conducted by John Hopkins University, people with the highest levels of vitamin E in their blood were 50% less likely to develop cataracts. A study reported in the Archives of Ophthalmology in 1988 showed that 200 IU a day of vitamin E reduces the incidence of cataracts by 56%. If 250 mgs. of vitamin C are added, their incidence is reduced by 86%.

Also in 1988, a Canadian study found that elderly subjects taking either 300 - 600 mg of vitamin C or 400 IU of vitamin E over a five year period were 56 - 70% less likely to develop age-related cataracts than would otherwise be predicted.

Unfortunately, there hasn't been as much research in the United States devoted to the nutritional treatment of cataracts once they develop. However, nutritional treatment of cataracts is routine in Germany, France and Japan.

In the United States, Dr. Todd has been using nutritional supplements for years to treat patients with cataracts. He finds that if nutritional treatment is started soon enough (when vision is 20/50 or better), he is nearly 100% successful in stopping its progression or reversing the cataract.

In one study conducted by Dr. Todd over a 1-year period, 43% of the people showed improvement in their cataract and the other 57% stabilized the cataract completely and showed absolutely no further deterioration. All of these results held up in a follow-up study conducted 5 years after the original. Cataract surgery was avoided in every case.

As a result of this and earlier studies, Dr. Todd has created a complete vitamin and mineral formula different from others that are available. Known as EYEMAX-plus, Dr. Todd uses it as the basis for his nutritional treatment of cataracts.

Dr. Lane's approach is to measure the status of the body's protective enzymes and biochemical indexes. He then suggests specific dietary changes based on these measurements. With this treatment, Dr. Lane can reverse cataract growth and restore vision to the level of health and degree of clarity it had one to two years prior to the start of treatment. For this reason, early detection and treatment is critical.


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