What About Medical Treatment for Cataracts?

There is no effective medical treatment for cataracts. The human and veterinary ophthalmology communities are united in their conclusion that cataract is a surgical disease. Veterinarians are smart people, but we are also extremely empathetic and sensitive to the economic concerns of our clients. An understandable unwillingness to pressure clients into expensive surgery may leave us vulnerable to the false promises of unregulated “nutraceuticals.” Antioxidant “cataract dissolving” eye drops are one example of this. The thought of simple eye drops that can help to avoid expensive surgery is so very attractive. Unfortunately, this is one of those situations that is definitely too good to be true.

Not only is there no scientific evidence that medical therapy for prevention or dissolution of cataracts is effective, the few published studies that have been done present evidence that they don’t work. For a summary, see this skeptvet article.

Although these eye drops are obviously less expensive than surgery, they are still moderately expensive ($50-100/bottle), need to be continued indefinitely, and are a complete waste of your client’s money.  Their use may actually have a detrimental effect by encouraging client’s to leave their pet’s cataracts unmonitored until such time as complications such as lens induced uveitis, lens luxation, and secondary glaucoma develop, preventing successful surgery.

The best recommendation to a client whose pet has cataracts is early evaluation by a veterinary ophthalmologist so that a surgical plan can be made that optimized recovery of vision and quality of life.