Ask Our Wellness Educators: Dealing With Small Cataracts

Dear Wellness Educator,

I am 69-years-old and have recently been diagnosed with, thankfully, small cataracts in both eyes. Ideally I would like to use natural treatments, such as vitamins or phytonutrients to help combat the cataracts. The Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS), sponsored by the Federal government's National Eye Institute, recommends using lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamins E and C, plus zinc and copper, instead of beta carotene. I could really use some assistance in finding the right product for me. Please Help! I want to prevent my cataracts from growing!


~JP "

Dr. Jen's Answer

Hello JP,

Here are some facts about cataracts, taken from the National Eye Institute:

A cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye that affects vision. Most cataracts are related to aging. Cataracts are very common in older people. By age 80, more than half of all Americans either have a cataract or have had cataract surgery.

A cataract can occur in either one or both eyes, but it can not spread from one eye to the other. The eye's lens lies behind the iris and the pupil and works much like a camera lens. It focuses light onto the retina at the back of the eye, where an image is recorded. The lens also adjusts the eye's focus, letting us see things clearly both up close and far away. The lens is made of mostly water and protein. The protein is arranged in a precise way that keeps the lens clear and lets light pass through it."

But as we age, some of the protein may clump together and start to cloud a small area of the lens. This is a cataract. Over time, the cataract may grow larger and cloud more of the lens making it harder to see. Researchers suspect that there are several causes of cataract, such as smoking and diabetes. Or, it may be that the protein in the lens just changes from the wear and tear it takes over the years. The risk of cataract increases as you get older.

Other risk factors for cataracts include:

• Certain diseases (diabetes)

• Personal behavior (smoking, alcohol use)

• The environment (prolonged exposure to ultraviolet sunlight)

As for the product recommendations, there are some really great formulas available. I prefer that people take a comprehensive multi vitamin-mineral as a foundational supplement, which will already provide a balance of minerals so you don't need to take extra copper or zinc. Regarding vitamins E and vitamin C, it can be beneficial to take higher doses than typically available in a multi-vitamin.

Any Vitamin C product that you like would be sufficient; dosing is usually between 500 mg- 3000 mg. For Vitamin E, an excellent choice is Unique E, which is pure mixed tocopherols, with no added vegetable oil filler.

One of my favorite recommendations for eye support is a LifeExtension product, MacuGuard Ocular Support. This is a combination of lutein, zeaxanthin, and C3G, a European Black Currant Extract.

I also like an eye drop product called Visual Ocuity. This is categorized as a lubricating eye drop, but many people find the carnosine ingredient can help to keep cataracts from progressing. I hope this information is helpful and thank you for submitting a question!

Yours in Good Health,

Jennifer Palmer, ND