Pharmacological Treatment Strategies in Age-Related Cataracts

Drugs Aging. Jul-Aug 1992;2(4):287-300. doi: 10.2165/00002512-199202040-00003.


Cataract is the major cause of blindness worldwide and at present the only approved treatment in many countries including the UK and USA is surgical removal of the lens. In other countries various anti-cataract drugs are available without proof of their efficacy. Research is continuing into the possible benefits of several groups of drugs and some vitamins. The first to be studied were sorbitol-lowering agents (aldose reductase inhibitors) based on the sorbitol hypothesis for diabetic cataract. Sorbitol-lowering agents have distinct effects in vitro and many of them delay the development of cataract in galactose-fed rats. A few delay cataract in diabetic rats but none have been proved effective in clinical trials, although these continue. Aspirin, paracetamol (acetaminophen) and ibuprofen delay diabetic cataract in rats, and have been shown to delay other experimental cataracts. Case-control studies from 3 continents indicate that these drugs, or at least aspirin, protect against cataract. Results of studies on all 3 drugs indicate a benefit even at low doses. Population-based studies did not identify any protection against early lens opacities but tiny opacities that do not impair vision are not a problem. Bendazac protects lens proteins in vitro and delays cataractogenesis in x-irradiated rats. In humans, it reached the clinical trial stage but most trials have been small and with subjective criteria of opacification. One objectively monitored trial suffered from a high drop-out rate. Other preparations studied less extensively include vitamins, aminoguanidine to prevent protein cross-linking in diabetes and agents designed to boost glutathione levels. It is probable that some agents which may delay or prevent cataract will be proved effective soon, and in the end there may be different drugs to delay cataract in different high risk groups. This is what might be expected of a multifactorial disease, although compounds that intervene in the final common pathways to cataract could have a broad efficacy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / pathology*
  • Animals
  • Cataract / drug therapy*
  • Cataract / pathology
  • Humans