A cataract is a change in the clarity of the natural lens inside the eye that gradually degrades visual quality. The lens plays a crucial role in focusing unimpeded light on the retina at the back of the eye. A significant cataract formation blocks and distorts light passing through the lens, causing visual symptoms and complaints. Cataract development is usually an age-related process because of protein loss in the lens. Other causes of cataract include eye surgery, eye inflammation, congenital cataract, exposure to excessive ultraviolet light, diabetes, smoking, and the use of certain medications like steroids, statins and phenothiazines. Blurred vision, difficulty with glare, increased near-sightedness, and occasionally double vision are some of the symptoms of cataract.
The conventional treatment for cataract is surgical removal along with implantation of an artificial lens. Once a cataract has formed, there is as yet no scientifically proved medication which can clear the cataract and avoid surgery. However, there are a number of Ayurvedic medicines which can be taken in an early age to prevent or delay future cataract formation. Such medicines can be divided into two categories: medicines which act locally on the eyes and medicines which have a general anti-aging effect on the whole body.
Triphala (Three fruits) is a combination which has been recommended for the eyes in the ancient Ayurvedic texts. Triphala consists of Amalaki (Emblica officinalis), Haritaki (Terminalia chebula) and Behada (Terminalia bellerica). Triphala can be used in a decoction form to wash the eyes on a regular basis, and can also be used as eye drops. Triphala-Ghrut is recommended for oral intake on a long term basis to improve the vision in the eyes, cure night blindness and prevent other diseases of the eyes. Medicines like Saptamrut-Loh, which are specially indicated for the eyes, contain Triphala as the main ingredient. In addition, other medicines like Yashtimadhuk (Glycerrhiza glabra), Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum), Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus), Punarnava (Boerhaavia diffusa), Patol (Tricosanthe dioica), Saariva (Hemidesmus indicus), Patha (Cissampelos pareira), Haridra (Curcuma longa) and Daruharidra (Berberis aristata) are also very useful for the eyes. If used on a long term basis, these medicines preserve eye function, prevent degeneration of the lens, prevent or reduce the accumulation of waste products inside the eyes and also prevent abnormal capillary formation in the retina, which can lead to bleeding and premature loss of vision.
The second category of medicines which has a general anti-aging effect on the body is the group of medicines called ‘Rasayanas’. These medicines include Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia), Samudrashosh (Argyreia speciosa), Naagbala (Grewia hirsuta), Amalaki, Haritaki, Rasna (Pluchea lanceolata), Aparaajita (Clitoria ternatea), Mandukparni (Centella asiatica), Punarnava, Mudgaparni (Phaseolus trilobus), Mashparni (Teramnus labialis) and Gokshur (Tribulus terrestris). These medicines prevent atherosclerosis and thus ensure a good supply of blood to all the parts of the body. They act directly on each cell of the body and help to maintain an optimum cellular environment. These medicines also act on vital organs like the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver and brain and help to ensure an optimum function of these organs and prevent premature ageing. The overall effect on the entire body is to maintain health and to improve longevity, while preserving the function of all the organs of the body. These medicines therefore act on the eyes too, by preventing or delaying cataract formation and maintaining a healthy retina.
This sort of preventive, rasayan therapy can be used by everyone, but is specially indicated for those people who are more prone to a cataract formation such as people having cardio-vascular disease, previous eye surgery and diabetes. It is also important to take other preventive steps to minimize exposure to factors that promote cataract, such as wearing sun glasses while going out. A healthy lifestyle with a proper diet, regular exercise and rest, and avoidance of smoking and alcohol also helps a lot in preventing the formation of cataract.