If this be granted, then cataract is a constitutional state, and our remedial measures must be directed to the constitution, and they should be taken at the earliest stages and continued for a long time, for chronic disease can only be cured by chronic treatment….

CATARACT is an opacity of the crystalline lens or of its capsule.

You will all agree to this, but you will say that the expression is too vague and loose, because there are lenticular opacities which are not cataract. Nevertheless I think it is sufficiently definite for practical purposes. I do not admit that all intra-lenticular changes resulting in opacity must show themselves unyielding to treatment in order to be called cataract; such a limitation is not true to nature, and is not in consonance with the history of the world in general medical, surgical and ophthalmological literature.

However, I come before you to give some ideas of my own, and as one seeking instruction from you. I want to ask you, whether the day has not dawned for an earnest effort to get at the true nature of cataract, and ascertain whether we must fold our hands impotently in its presence till it is like a ripe kernel in its shell ready to be enucleated, or whether we should fix our diagnosis as early as possible, to the end that our patients may have the benefit of our scientific therapeutics, and reasonably look for retardation, amelioration, or even complete cure of that which threatens to shut out the light of day from them.

The True Nature of Cataract.

It is necessary to a right understanding of the subject that we have a clear conception of the essential nature of cataract, not merely as a pathological entity in a given cadre, but from a microcosmic standpoint: from the point of view of the entire economy.

Cataract is a general disease, i.e., the opaque state of the lens is most frequently only a local expression of a general state.

To me an opaque lens existing by itself in an otherwise healthy-body is inconceivable, except from trauma, or from mal- development, or from obstructed nutrition; but given a normally developed lens, not mechanically or chemically injured, it cannot of itself become opaque unless from some other part of the organism. It is barely possible to have a sclerosis of the lens and a supple elastic condition of the other parts of the economy. In a word the sclerotic change in the lens is of a piece with the state of the other tissues of the same individual at the same time.

If this be granted, then cataract is a constitutional state, and our remedial measures must be directed to the constitution, and they should be taken at the earliest stages and continued for a long time, for chronic disease can only be cured by chronic treatment.

I was very much gratified to read in the last edition of Professor Angell’s work, A Treatise on Diseases of the Eye, 6th edition, 1882, that ophthalmologists are beginning to take a broader view of the pathology of cataract. This eminent colleague says (p. 270): “Recently, investigations, chiefly by Michel, in regard to the influence of the general circulation upon the nutrition of the eye, go very far to prove that cataract is generally caused by sclerosis of the carotid arteries. Thus in the course of ten months fifty-three cases of cataract observed showed a sclerosis of the carotid in every case. In some, where one eye only was affected, there was sclerosis of the carotid in the same side only, or it was more highly developed in that side, while in double cataract the opacity of the lens was most advanced on the side corresponding to that in which the sclerosis of the carotid was greatest. In addition to the sclerosis there was also in some of the cases an enlargement of the thyroid gland. The ages of the patient varied from eight to eighty-one years.”

Here I must object not to this statement in itself, but to the way in which Professor Angell puts it.

It is hardly correct to say that because sclerosis of the carotid accompanies cataract that, therefore, the lenticular opacity is secondary to the sclerosed carotid. I submit that cataract is itself a sclerosis of the lens, and that the hardened condition of lens and carotid is merely common to both, though the carotid may possibly degenerate first. I quite agree with Dr. Angell that it is not probable that every case of cataract will show a sclerosis of the carotid, and that there may be senile marasmus, or a feebleness of the circulation after exhaustive disease, or congenital insufficiency of the arterial circulation, or abnormal growths pressing on the carotids-all and any of them as causes of cataract.

Some of the most frequent causes of cataract are, in my opinion, gout, rheumatism, rheumatic gout and syphilis, and here what benefits the gout or rheumatism will tend to better the cataract.

James Compton Burnett
James Compton Burnett was born on July 10, 1840 and died April 2, 1901. Dr. Burnett attended medical school in Vienna, Austria in 1865. Alfred Hawkes converted him to homeopathy in 1872 (in Glasgow). In 1876 he took his MD degree.
Burnett was one of the first to speak about vaccination triggering illness. This was discussed in his book, Vaccinosis, published in 1884. He introduced the remedy Bacillinum. He authored twenty books, including the much loved "Fifty Reason for Being a Homeopath." He was the editor of The Homoeopathic World.