Cataract Eye Drops: A Complete Guide

Medically Reviewed By Leela Raju, MD

Research into eye drops as a possible cataract treatment is ongoing. Currently, there are no FDA-approved eye drops for treating cataracts. However, other treatments can help support eye health. Eye drops are not a standard cataract treatment. However, research is ongoing into treatments for this progressive condition. Some initial findings suggest an eye drop treatment for cataracts may be on the horizon.

This article discusses whether eye drops may help with cataract symptoms, and their potential benefits and limitations. It also gives information on nonsurgical options for cataract management.

Eye drops to improve cataracts

Someone applies eye drops to their eye in front of a mirror.
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Currently, eye drops are not a standard treatment for cataracts. However, research into eye drop medications for cataracts is ongoing.

A 2021 study Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source involving humans and animals investigated the use of eye drops containing a protein called fructosamine-3-kinase (FN3K). Researchers studied these drops for advanced glycation end cataracts, or AGE-related cataracts. The study indicates that the FN3K protein helped improve lens clarity.

The results of this study are promising. However, further research is necessary to determine the effectiveness of FN3K-based eye drops to treat cataracts.

Also, cataracts can have Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source various underlying causes. Therefore, FN3K-containing eye drops might not be effective for all types of cataracts.

Illegally marketed eye drops

In 2023, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Trusted Source Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Governmental authority Go to source issued warnings to the following companies for illegally creating or selling unapproved eye products, including eye drops for cataracts:

  • CVS Health
  • Walgreens
  • Boirin
  • DR Vitamin Solutions
  • Natural Ophthalmics
  • OcluMed
  • Similasan AG/Similasan USA
  • TRP Company

In early 2024, the FDA reported Trusted Source Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Governmental authority Go to source that some unapproved eye drops from South Moon, Rebright, and FivFivGo were contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Discard any of these eye drops you may own, and contact an eye doctor if you believe you may have used them.

Also, always talk with a doctor or pharmacist before treating vision conditions with an over-the-counter (OTC) product. If you have questions about an OTC eye product or feel your current prescription treatment is not helping, talk with your doctor.

Eye drops after surgery 

After eye surgery, your doctor may prescribe eye drops for 1–4 weeks Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source to support healing, prevent infection, and reduce inflammation.

Types of eye drops they may prescribe include: 

  • Anti-inflammatory eye drops: Steroidal and nonsteroidal eye drops can reduce eye inflammation after surgery, relieving discomfort, redness, and swelling.
  • Antibiotic eye drops: Antibiotic eye drops can help prevent or treat bacterial infections.
  • Lubricating eye drops: You may experience temporary eye dryness or discomfort during the healing process. Your doctor may prescribe lubricating eye drops to relieve these symptoms.

Current treatments for cataracts

Cataract treatment depends on disease severity and how it affects your daily activities.

If cataracts significantly affect your vision and quality of life, your doctor may recommend surgery. The procedure involves removing and replacing the cloudy lens with an artificial intraocular lens (IOL).

Managing cataract-related vision issues can also involve:

  • lifestyle adjustments, such as using brighter lighting
  • prescription glasses or contact lenses
  • sunglasses to help reduce glare

Although prescription eyewear cannot reverse cataracts or vision loss, it may help you see better.

Talk with your doctor to discuss treatment options and determine the most suitable treatment plan.

Learn more about cataract surgery, including its procedure and effectiveness.

Developments in research 

Aside from eye drops, researchers have made significant developments in cataract diagnosis and treatment.

Improved surgical techniques

Researchers have been investigating surgical techniques that may increase the safety and effectiveness of cataract surgery.

One area of research is femtosecond laser-assisted cataract surgery. This procedure uses a laser to make precise incisions and may improve Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source surgical outcomes for some people.

Advanced IOLs

Cataract surgery replaces the eye’s natural lens with an IOL.

Traditional monofocal IOLs only correct distance vision, requiring reading glasses for near vision. Newer IOL options are multifocal and extended depth of focus IOLs. These may improve Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source distance and near vision without the need for glasses.

Also, toric IOLs may Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source improve astigmatism.

Summary

Currently, no FDA-approved eye drops for cataracts exist on the market. However, research into new cataract treatments, including eye drops, is ongoing.

Your doctor may prescribe eye drops to help with discomfort and prevent infection after a cataract surgery.

Always talk with a doctor before using an eye product to treat cataracts. Do not use eye drops that the FDA has not approved for your condition. Talk with a doctor or pharmacist if you are unsure whether an eye drop product is safe or FDA-approved.

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Medical Reviewer: Leela Raju, MD
Last Review Date: 2024 Feb 20
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