Ophthalmologist Questions Cataract

Is there a way to treat cataract without surgery?

My father is 72 years old and has been detected with cataract in one of his eyes. He is also diabetic, so we are worried if the surgery will be successful or not. Is there a way to treat the cataract without surgery?

12 Answers

While I believe there is some experimental work with medical treatment of cataracts, so far it is only in rhesus monkeys. At this time, the only treatment for cataracts is surgical. Fortunately, modern cataract surgery and intraocular lenses can remarkably improve vision with a high degree of safety. While diabetics can have additional risks, cataract surgery is frequently performed on diabetics with excellent outcomes. Only a thorough exam can provide the information to advise you as to increased concerns related to surgery. All surgery has risk, but cataract surgery is probably one of the most successful operations in modern medicine. I would add only one caveat; a very advanced cataract can be much more difficult to remove and will actually increase the risk of complications. if cataract surgery is truly indicated and any diabetic risks have been managed, delaying surgery excessively could make management of diabetic eye problems more difficult and deprive the patient of improved vision. Ultimately, the time for surgery is when the patient feels it's necessary.
The simple answer is no. The surgeon that examined your dad should have performed a refraction to determine whether and new prescription for glasses would improve the vision. Cataracts are a progressive condition and will get worse with time. This should have been discussed at the time cataract surgery was suggested. If the vision is not too bad and there is no diabetic retinopathy then the surgery can be postponed. However, there is no alternative to removing the cataract.
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There are no scientifically proven methods other than surgery to treat cataract that I know of. Cataract surgery is usually safe and effective in this modern era. Diabetes increases the risks, but only minimally. If he were my father and he needed surgery to see again, I would do it. Choose the best surgeon by asking others who have had surgery and then check his or her credentials.
Cataracts can only be treated surgically. However, and this is very important, they should only be removed if they are materially interfering with the patient’s lifestyle! I have personally had both cataracts removed. The surgery is not very dangerous or difficult to get through and any competent eye surgeon who has done a lot of cataract cases should be well equipped to get him through it.
Unfortunately, there is no other good treatment.
The problem with the development of cataract is that the structure of the lens inside the eye has lost its transparency in an irreversible way. There is no way to reverse that, and so surgery is the only option. 

Cataract surgery is pain free, and one of the most successful of all operations as the parts of the surgery are extremely well controlled and predictable. Diabetics commonly develop cataracts in older age and there is no additional risk to surgery in this group with well controlled diabetes. Dense cataracts prevent viewing of the back of the eye, and cataract removal in diabetics is sometimes necessary when there are diabetic changes in the back termed "diabetic retinopathy". There is a small increased risk if the cataract removal is delayed and becomes advanced, so do not put this off.  
If you discover a way to treat cataracts without surgery you would win the Nobel Prize in Medicine, be on the cover of Time magazine, and save the government billions of dollars.

Alas, this is not the case. It is a normal part of aging and cataract surgery has been around since the time of the Egyptians, who would 'couch' or push the cataract into the back of the eye and to the side with a sharp reed (since there was no way to remove it surgically in those days).

Nowadays, it is one of the most common procedures performed in the world and is extremely safe with a very low complication rate. It has also been shown improve the quality of life in elderly people as well as decrease the rates of accidental falls and fractures, as well as depression.

In good hands and at a reputable place, he has an excellent prognosis. If his diabetes is controlled, it usually does not have a bearing in most cases.
I have heard tales of eyedrops used in Spain to reduce cataracts, but never found any information in the medical literature that confirms this.

Cataract surgery is the most common surgery performed in the USA. While no surgery is risk-free, cataract surgery most commonly is successful and without complication. The choice of surgeon is of paramount importance!! Sight affects quality of life to a tremendous degree. Your father is a relatively young man, by today's standards! Please go with him and meet with an experienced cataract surgeon.
As to date, there is no medication that can slow down the growth of or clear the clouded lens. In the early stages of the cataracts, most people can get by with improving their vision with new glasses, contacts, anti-glare sunglasses, or magnifying glass, however as the cataracts get worse over time, surgery is the only effective treatment. If left untreated, the cataract will become so clouded that it would be very difficult to see any details. In a cataract surgery, the physician would remove the clouded damaged lens and replace it with a clear plastic intraocular lens (IOL). In the past, before the development of the IOL implants, physicians would wait until the cataract is advanced and dense, however today with advanced surgical techniques and equipments, physicians tend to suggest cataract surgery at an earlier stage in development.

You can read more about cataract and cataract surgery on my website at:
The only treatment for cataract is surgical removal. In diabetes, it’s important to make sure the retina is stable prior to the cataract removal.
No treatment is an option if vision is still good for his needs. When vision is bad, removal of the cataract in a 15 to 20 minute operation is needed. Modern surgery is usually very safe in my experience.