Cataracts are among the most common eye diseases. The term actually means a waterfall, and refers to the opacity of the crystalline lens of the eye on the assumption that the condition is caused by the humor of the brain falling over the pupil.
The crystalline lens, through which light travels into the interior of the eye, is situated just behind the iris, or colored portion of the eye. In cataracts, this lens becomes opaque, hence seriously hampering the entrance of light into the eye. Blindness ensues when no light rays can permeate the opacity of the lens. According to the modern medical system, a surgical operation to remove the lens or a major portion of it is the only way to get rid of the disease. The patient is provided with suitable glasses after the operation to enable him to see well enough to carry on his normal duties.
The first sign of cataracts is blurred vision. The patient finds it difficult to see things in focus. As the cataract progresses, the patient may get double vision or spots or both. There is a gradual increase in blindness. At first, vision in twilight may be better than in full daylight since light is admitted around the more widely-dilated pupil in the dark. In the advanced stage, objects and persons may appear as mere blobs of light. In the final stage, there is a grayish-white discoloration in the pupil.
A cataract is often found in association with other defects of the eye. There are four factors that contribute to the loss of transparency of the lens. These are stagnation of the fluid current in the lens resulting from blood condition; deterioration in the nutrition of the lens which diminishes the vitality and resistance of the delicate lens fibers; deposits between the lens fibers of acids and salts which have an irritating effect on the lens tissues and exert increasing pressure on its delicate fibers, clouding the whole lens in the absence of appropriate measures.
As in the case of most diseases, poisons in the bloodstream due to dietetic errors and a faulty style of living is the real cause of cataract. The toxic matter in the bloodstream spreads throughout the body to find shelter in any available weak spot. It strikes the lens if that part has become weak through strain, excessive use of the eyes, and local irritation. The condition becomes worse with the passage of time and then a cataract starts developing. Other causes of cataracts are stress and strain, excessive intake of alcoholic drinks, sugar, salt, smoking, certain physical ailments such as gastro-intestinal or gall-bladder disturbance, diabetes, vitamin deficiencies, especially of vitamin C, fatty acid intolerance, aging, radiation, and side- effects of drugs prescribed for other diseases.
Some specialists believe that the most important cause of many cataracts is poor nutrition. This may be true even in the case of the type of cataract commonly called a senile or aging cataract. The cause may be a lifetime of malnutrition. Dr. Morgan Raiford, an ophthalmologist who has studied cataracts for many years, considers faulty nutrition to be a basic factor in cataracts. He has found from experience that the prevention of cataracts is initiated by improving nutrition.
A cataract is one of the most stubborn conditions to deal with, if it has become deep-seated, nothing short of a surgical operation will help in overcoming the trouble. If, however, the cataract is in the early stages, there are good chances of getting over the ailment by natural means. Even advanced cases can be prevented from becoming worse.
A thorough course of cleansing the system of toxic matter is essential. To start with, it will be beneficial to undergo a fast for three to four days on orange juice and water. A warm water enema may be taken during this period. After this initial fast, a diet of a very restricted nature should be followed for two weeks. In this regimen, breakfast may consist of oranges or grapes, or any other juicy fruit in season. Raw vegetable salads in season, with olive oil and lemon juice dressing, and soaked raisins, figs, or dates should be taken during lunch. Evening meals may consist of vegetables such as spinach, fenugreek, drumsticks, cabbage, cauliflower, carrot, and turnips, steamed in their own juices, and a few nuts or some fruits, such as apples, pears, and grapes. Potatoes should not be taken. No bread or any other food should be added to this diet. After two weeks on this diet, the cataract patient may start on a fuller diet on the following lines :
Breakfast: Any fresh fruits in season, except bananas.
Lunch: A large mixed raw vegetable salad with wholemeal bread or chapatis and butter.
Dinner: Two or three steamed vegetables, other than potatoes, with nuts and fresh fruit.
The short fast followed by a restricted diet should be repeated three months after the commencement of the treatment and again three months later, if necessary. The bowels should be cleansed daily with a warm water enema during the fast, and afterward as necessary.
The patient should avoid white bread, sugar, cream, refined cereals, rice, boiled potatoes, puddings and pies, strong tea or coffee, alcoholic beverages, condiments, pickles, sauces, or other so-called aids to digestion.
There is increasing evidence to show that in several cases cataracts have actually been reversed by proper nutritional treatment. However, the time needed for such treatment may extend from six months to three years. Adelle Davis, one of America’s best-known nutritionists, has pointed out that animals develop cataracts if deprived of pantothenic acid and amino acid, tryptophane, and vitamin B6 needed for tryptophane assimilation. She states that the diet of the cataract patient should be high in B2, and B6, as well as whole B-complex, pantothenic acid, vitamins C, D, E, and other nutrients.
The aniseed is considered a useful remedy for cataracts. The patient should take about six grams of aniseed daily in the morning and evening. Equal weights of aniseed and coriander powder mixed with brown sugar are also beneficial in the treatment of this disease and the mixture should be taken in doses of 12 grams in the morning and evening. Another valuable remedy for cataracts is to grind seven kernels of almonds and half a gram of pepper together in water, and then drink the mixture after sifting and sweetening the mixture with sugar candy. It helps the eyes to regain their vigor.
Simultaneous with the dietary treatment, the patient should adopt various methods of relaxing and strengthening the eyes. These include moving the eyes gently up and down, from side to side and in a circle, clockwise and anti-clockwise; rotating the neck in circles and semi-circles and briskly moving the shoulders clockwise and anti-clockwise. The patient should also resort to palming which is highly beneficial in removing strain and relaxing the eyes and their surrounding tissues. The procedure has been outlined in chapter 40 on defective vision.
The Epsom salt bath is highly beneficial and should be taken twice a week. The patient should remain in the bath for 25 to 35 minutes till he perspires freely. After the bath, the patient should cool off gradually. Closed eyes should also be bathed at least twice daily with hot water containing Epsom salt – a tablespoonful of salt to a large cupful of hot water.
In cases where the cataract has been caused by stress, an antistress diet rich in protein, vitamins B, C, and E, pantothenic acid and nutrients is essential to overcome the trouble. If a cataract has already developed, the diet will help prevent its occurrence in the other type.
Fresh air and gentle outdoor exercises, such as walking, are other essentials to the treatment. Exposure to heat and bright light should be avoided as far as possible.