Without surgery cataracts often lead to blindness. For many years surgery has been one of the only treatment options available to those with this condition. However, recent developments suggest that new cataract treatment options may someday eliminate the need for cataract surgery. A Russian study indicates that eye drops made from n-acetylcarnosine (NAC) can reverse existing cataracts and inhibit new cataracts from forming. These new eye drops may be able to offer those with cataracts an alternative to surgery.
What are Cataracts?
Cataracts occur when the lens of the eye becomes cloudy. This can make it much more difficult to see and in some cases can greatly impair vision. They are very common and it is estimated that more than half of Americans over the age of 65 have cataracts.
The lens of the eye functions much like the lens of a camera. It focuses the light that enters the eye and reflects it onto the retina. A cataract is basically a protein build up on the lens that makes it appear cloudy. This blocks light and leads to a loss of vision. Cataracts can be caused by age, genetics, medical conditions or injury. Cigarette smoke, heavy drinking of alcohol and exposure to air pollution can increase your risk for cataracts. Cataracts can occur at any age and are sometimes even present in newborn babies.
How Are Cataracts Treated?
The treatment options for cataracts vary widely depending on the severity of the condition. When cataracts are not severe they can often be treated by changing the prescription in a pair of eyeglasses or contacts. This is often only a temporary solution as surgery is generally needed as the cataracts worsen.
When cataracts start to interfere with daily life or greatly impact vision surgery is generally the only treatment option. During surgery the cloudy lens is removed and replaced with a special, clear artificial lens. This procedure is very common. In fact it is the most common surgical procedure in the United States. More than 90% of those that undergo surgery experience an increase in vision once the procedure is completed.
What are the Downsides to Cataract Surgery?
While cataract surgery is very common and effective, it is not without risk. Complications can happen. Approximately 2% of those that undergo surgery experience a serious complication. These complications include retinal detachment, corneal edema and more. In severe cases a cornea transplant can even be needed. In addition the surgery can be uncomfortable and problems can occur from the artificial lens. Some people find the prospect of cataract surgery to be intimidating and choose to deal with compromised vision rather than undergo the procedure.
NAC Eye Drops- An Alternative to Surgery?
In a recent long term study completed by the Helmholtz Eye Institute in Moscow, Russia researchers determined that NAC eye drops may be an effective cataract treatment option. These eye drops may be able to reverse current cataract damage and to prevent new cataracts from forming. This treatment option may be able to save many people from the pain and risk of cataract surgery.
What is NAC?
NAC is the abbreviation for a substance known as n-acetylcarnosine. It is a naturally occurring compound that is related to carnosine (formed by the amino acids beta-alanine and histidine). It can easily pass from the cornea to the aqueous humor of the eye and seems to have antioxidant properties that may contribute to its effectiveness in treating cataracts.
The Russian Study
In the study researchers observed 49 volunteers for a period ranging from 6 months to 24 months. During this observation period researchers watched lens clarity in the study participants. The average participant age was 65 and all had age related cataracts. The severity of the cataracts varied from minimal to severe.
Throughout the study participants would receive eye drops twice a day in each eye. Some received a solution of 1% NAC while others received a placebo eye drop. Study participants were evaluated periodically. The study found that 90% of patients receiving the NAC drops experienced an increase in visual acuity. Additionally 41.5% showed significant improvement in the transmissivity of the lens and 88.9% of patients treated with NAC had an improvement in relation to glare sensitivity. Those not receiving NAC showed little change in vision at 6 months and vision deterioration between 12 and 24 months. The NAC drops had very few, if any, side effects.
This study brings hope and new treatment options to those with cataracts. As researchers continue to learn more about NAC it may become a great alternative to surgery that can allow those with cataracts to reverse the severity of their condition and that can help others to prevent them from ever occurring.
Bookmark This Page