Updated on  February 5, 2024
4 min read

Can Eyedrops Treat Cataracts?

12 sources cited
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Eye drops have not yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat cataracts.

Scientists believe that eye drops may be able to slow the progression of cataracts and even reverse early-stage, age-induced cataracts.

This could potentially offer a safe and non-surgical alternative to treat cataracts.

Here’s an overview of research regarding cataract eye drops:

  • In 2015, a group of scientists discovered that lanosterol was shown to reverse cataracts.10
  • Lanosterol reversed protein aggregation in cataracts and points to a novel strategy for cataract prevention and treatment.10
  • Lanosterol treatment reduced cataract severity and increased transparency in rabbits and dogs.10
  • However, since lanosterol has limited solubility, the team had to inject the compound into the eyes for it to be effective.8
  • Using this information, another group of scientists collected 32 additional sterols that can be used in cataract eye drops.7
  • These scientists used a method known as high-throughput differential scanning fluorimetry or HT-DSF.7
  • During their experiments, they discovered that “compound 29” had the highest potential to treat cataracts.7
  • Following this experiment, the researchers decided to test the compound on mice predisposed to developing cataracts.7
  • The results were promising: the mice treated with the compound partially restored transparency to lenses affected by cataracts.7

However, until further research comes to fruition, antibiotic eye drops may only be used to fight infections and inflammation following cataract surgery.

To date, surgery is the only way to cure cataracts.

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Can-C (NAC) Eye Drops for Cataracts

An eye drop called ‘Can-C’ that contains N-alpha-acetylcarnosine (NAC) claims to reverse, reduce, and slow senile cataract development.9

The FDA has yet to approve the product for cataract treatment.

Professor Babizhayev, a bio-physicist and Executive Director of Innovative Vision Products (IVP), patented and developed these eye drops. 

In 2002 Babizhayev and other researchers conducted a study regarding the effects of 1% N-acetylcarnosine (NAC) solution on lens clarity in patients with cataracts.11

Here’s a rundown of the methodology and results:

  • Participants included 49 subjects (76 affected eyes) with a diagnosis of senile cataract with minimum to advanced opacification in various lens layers. 
  • 26 patients (41 eyes) received topical NAC 1% eyedrops twice daily, 13 patients (21 eyes) received placebo eyedrops, and 10 patients (14 eyes) did not receive eyedrops.
  • All patients were evaluated at entry and followed up every 2 months for 6 months (trial 1) or at 6-month intervals for 2 years (trial 2).
  • Researchers found that after 6 months, 90% of NAC-treated eyes showed a 7 to 100% improvement in best corrected visual acuity.
  • 88.9% of the treatment group also showed a 27 to 100% improvement in glare sensitivity.
  • Overall visual outcome in the control group showed significant worsening after 24 months.

While the study shows promising results, many have criticized it.

What are Cataracts?

A cataract is a clouding of your eye’s lens that ultimately affects your vision. It occurs when crystallin proteins in your eye break down and start clumping together. This can happen in one or both eyes, but it doesn’t spread from one to the other.

Symptoms may vary but generally include the following:

  • Blurry or double vision
  • Glare or halo around lights
  • Faded color vision
  • Poor night vision
  • Frequently changing eyewear prescription

Various factors can cause cataracts. They may come on as a result of the following:

  • Diabetes 
  • Eye diseases 
  • Eye injuries
  • Eye surgery
  • Sun damage 
  • Aging 
  • Genetics
cataracts scaled e1598035826129

Treatment options are available to slow the progression of a cataract formation and ultimately cure cataracts.

When is Cataract Surgery Necessary?

Cataract surgery may be necessary if your cataracts are worsening to the point of significant vision impairment. An eye care routine can help to minimize your symptoms, but you cannot get rid of cataracts on your own or reverse the protein aggregation.

While new, more accessible, and affordable treatments are underway, cataract surgery is currently the only way to cure cataracts. Not everyone will recover from cataract surgery with perfect vision, but it can drastically improve your condition.

Antibiotic eye drops, like Vigamox, Besivance, and Zymaxid (gatifloxacin), are often prescribed after cataract surgery to prevent infection.

Without insurance, the average cost of cataract surgery is between $3,500 and $7,000 per eye in the United States. However, Medicare and private insurance plans often cover all or a portion of the costs. This can reduce your out-of-pocket expenses by 80 percent or more.

How to Prevent Cataracts

You cannot get rid of existing cataracts naturally. However, some general eye care and lifestyle changes can slow the progression of cataracts:

  • Avoid or quit substances like tobacco
  • Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all
  • Protect your eyes from ultraviolet (UV) radiation with sunglasses and/or hats
  • Eat a healthy diet rich in nutrients and antioxidants
  • Take vitamins to supplement your diet
  • Avoid activities that cause eye strain
  • Get regular eye exams to ensure appropriate prescriptions that promote eye health

You should also get regular eye exams to check your eye health. Remember that surgery may be the only option if your cataracts have progressed too far.


Cataracts are a common problem that affects millions of people worldwide. There is research surrounding cataract eye drops and eye drops that claim to treat cataracts. 

However, they have received criticisms and further research is needed to prove their safety and effectiveness. General eye care and lifestyle changes can help slow the condition’s progression.

Updated on  February 5, 2024
12 sources cited
Updated on  February 5, 2024
  1. Boyd, Kierstan. “What Are Cataracts?” American Academy of Ophthalmology, 2020.
  2. “Can You Cure Cataracts Naturally Without Surgery?” NVISION Eye Centers.
  3. “Cataracts Orange County: Three Types of Cataracts: Harvard Eye.” Harvard Eye Associates, 2020.
  4. “Cataracts | Cataract Surgery.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2020.
  5. “Cataracts.” National Eye Institute, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  6. Stoye, Emma. “Eye Drops Show Promise in Treating Cataracts without Surgery.” Scientific American, Scientific American, 2015.
  7. Makley, Leah N., et al. “Pharmacological chaperone for α-crystallin partially restores transparency in cataract models.” Science, 2015.
  8. Farley, Pete. “Eye Drops Could Clear Up Cataracts Using Newly Identified Chemical.” UCSF, 2015.
  9. “What is Can-C™?” Can-c.net.
  10. Zhao, L., et al. “Lanosterol reverses protein aggregation in cataracts.” Nature, 2015.
  11. Babizhayev, M. A., et al. “Efficacy of N-acetylcarnosine in the treatment of cataracts.” Drugs in R&D, 2002.
  12. Dubois, V. D., & Bastawrous, A. “N-acetylcarnosine (NAC) drops for age-related cataract.” The Cochrane database of systematic reviews, 2017.
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