Concept and Management of Cataract in Ayurveda.
Several thousand year old Ayurvedic texts describe the structure and working principles of the eye, explain signs and symptoms of cataract, its management, as well as detailed indications, contraindications and complications of cataract surgery.
According to Ayurveda, vitiated doshas (three main energetic principles) get lodged in different layers of the pupillary circular area and cause various visual abnormalities. Doshas get increased by a lifestyle and/or diet that is unwholesome to the eye, such as excessive intake of sweet, sour, and salty food, food that cause burning sensation after ingestion, day sleep and excessive use of nutritive food.
Cataract usually commences in the fifth and sixth decades of life, when Pitta dosha, responsible for digestive fire, is diminishing, resulting in accumulation of waste products (malas).
Stages and symptoms according to Ayurveda.
1. Timira – stage when the doshas are localized in the first and second layers of the lens. Along with general worsening of vision the specific signs are white colored vision and slimy appearance of the objects. This stage is curable.
2. Kaaca stage happens when doshas migrate in third or deeper layer of lens. In this stage there will not be vision in lower part of the visual field. Though the vision is retained in the upper half, the patient sees the objects as though covered with a thin cloth. This stage is not curable but manageable.
3. Linganaasa stage involves all lens fibers in the pathology when the eye has no vision. This stage demands surgery.
At ancient time surgery was done only on mature cataracts when vision was completely lost. Recent advancements in surgery have made things easier. The patient can leave the hospital on the same day, and complications are comparatively rare.
But still surgery is a serious invasion that has contraindications and might have complications. Ayurveda’s advice is to do one’s best keeping the eyes healthy at any age. The body is a system, so everything you do for your vision will also improve our overall health and vice versa.
During the first phase of cataract (timira) an Ayurvedic doctor can employ intense internal unction, bloodletting, purgation, nasal medication, collyria (eye wash), retention of oil on scalp, enema, retention of medicated ghee in the orbit, coating on eye and irrigation of the eye.
Treatment should start in the middle age when distant vision disturbances usually manifest. Simultaneous rejuvenation therapy (See Rasayana) can also be done. Patient can be treated as inpatient once or twice yearly. As a part of rejuvenation Triphala is indicated to maintain health of the eye (See Triphala – an A-dic panacea; and Triphala Eye Treatment).
Trataka (gazing at a Ghee lamp) is a simple but powerful practice to keep eyes healthy. According to the ‘Hatha Yoga Pradipika’ of Swatmarama, “Trataka eradicates all eye diseases, fatigue and sloth and closes the doorway creating these problems”. Trataka benefits not only the eyes but a whole range of physiological and mental functions. It is therapeutic in depression, insomnia, allergy, anxiety, postural problems, poor concentration and memory.
By practicing Trataka use a Ghee (clarified butter) lamp placed at the eye level. A Ghee flame is much more powerful than one of a candle. Ghee flame provides the purest fire energy that neutralizes destructive vitalized fire (Pitta dosha) responsible for eye disease (See Ghee).
TODAY’S TIP: Special eye care includes being always happy, keeping the feet always clean and daily application of oil to the soles.