Drops Instead of Cataract Surgery?

As a local Eye Doctor I get asked about using drops instead of Cataract Surgery regularly. The patient will have seen an advertisement on Facebook or Groupon and will have quite a few questions. So, if you are wanting to know if there is a drop that you can use to avoid cataract surgery, this is your article!

What are cataracts?

I have discussed this topic before and you can find a longer explanation of cataracts here. Having said that I still need to at least say that a cataract is a clouding of the lens inside of our eye. This is happening because a protein inside the lens is being reshaped from sunlight exposure or something along those lines.

Reshaped Protein

Now that we know a cataract is a misshaped protein it makes sense that we should be able to create a drop to fix the problem. So, with that knowledge in hand researchers started looking for a chemical that could do just that.

Enter Lanosterol

Well in 2015 some researchers found just that. A compound of animal and fungus steroids was found that could fix that misshaped protein in rabbits. So, what the researchers did was inject with a needle into the eye of the rabbit multiple times the Lanosterol and found that it would reverse the cataracts. The Lanosterol worked as a replacement for cataract surgery in rabbits, but that is a rabbit.

Problems with the Lanosterol Drops

So, if we knew that Lanosterol could reverse cataracts in 2015, why are we still doing cataract surgery and not using the drops? There are a couple reasons why the Lanosterol drops do not work.

The first is that the Lanosterol in order to work was injected into the eye and not put in a drop on the front of the eye. This means that the amount of medication actually reaching the cataract is very very low. So low, that it would not have an effect on the lens inside the eye.

The second reason the drop doesn’t work is that the Lanosterol isn’t stable inside a human eye. The fluid inside a rabbit’s eye and a human’s eye is different. So, even if the topical drop of Lanosterol was trying to migrate to the cataract it wouldn’t be stable inside the eye and would be changed before reaching the destination.

Do I Sell Drops for Cataracts or do I talk about Cataract Surgery?

I do not sell drops as a replacement for cataract surgery. Like I stated above they do not work. I refer patients for cataract surgery and do not make any money off that. If these drops actually worked I would be selling them in my office instead of sending patients for cataract surgery.

Will They Ever Make Drops to Get Rid of Cataracts?

My guess is that they will eventually discover a way to get rid of cataracts with a drop. While it would be neat for the US that isn’t who will really benefit. The real winners of this technology will be countries that don’t have easy access to surgeons. So, while I am optimist that this will happen eventually for now I send my patients for cataract surgery.

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Dr. Thirion

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