By Dr. Yasaira Rodriguez, a board-certified ophthalmologist for Elmquist Eye Group
A proper diet nourishes the whole body, aiding and maintaining healthy vision. However, many people struggle to get the nutrients they need through diet alone. While you cannot replace healthy eating habits, multivitamins and supplements may make up for nutritional deficiencies that could jeopardize your eye health.
Research shows that adding certain nutrients to your daily diet can reduce the risk of eye diseases and other degenerative conditions.
A 2019 study by University of Buffalo, published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology, shows an unhealthy diet increases threefold the likelihood of developing late-stage age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD is the leading cause of irreversible vision loss among adults over 60; AMD causes the slow deterioration of central vision, making it difficult for those with the disease to conduct daily tasks such as driving, reading and recognizing faces.
But what nutrients are best for your eye health? In such a saturated market, finding the right vitamins and supplements can be overwhelming. Fortunately, decades of research have clarified the options.
In 1990 and 2006, The National Eye Institute sponsored two clinical trials, the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) and AREDS2, which found that certain supplements can help delay the progression of AMD. The AREDS study evaluated the use of a high-dose combination of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene—a pigment that helps produce Vitamin A, and zinc for patients with varying degrees of macular degeneration.
Of the study’s participants, those at high risk of developing advanced stages of AMD lowered their risk by about 25%. AREDS2 found that including the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin without beta-carotene offered even better protection against AMD.
In addition to the AREDS2 formula for AMD, researchers have found that certain dietary supplements can offer protection from several other eye conditions:
Vitamin A maintains corneal health and improves low-light vision.
A deficiency in vitamin A can cause dry eyes, impaired night vision and even blindness.
Studies have shown that the antioxidant properties of vitamins C and E may help delay the progression of cataracts.
Cataracts, which appear as milky blue clouds on the surface of the eye, are another leading cause of blindness worldwide.
Vitamin D may help protect against dry eye syndrome and prevent uveitis, an inflammation of the eye’s middle layer.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
These fatty acids, commonly sourced from fish, have been found to treat and reduce the risk of dry eye.
According to a European study published in 2008, omega-3 fatty acids could also help prevent neovascular (wet) macular degeneration.
Zinc plays an important role in helping the body absorb Vitamin A, and may also protect the eyes against night blindness.
Although vitamins and supplements are available over the counter, a medical professional can help evaluate what’s right for your body. Consult your ophthalmologist and primary care physician to determine what approach is best for you, especially if you’re taking other medications. Certain vitamins can interfere with prescription drug efficacy, and vice versa.
Regular eye exams are also critical to maintaining eye health, even if there are no noticeable vision problems. A comprehensive eye exam provides your eye doctor the opportunity to monitor, detect and treat developing eye conditions before permanent damage occurs. With AMD and many other eye conditions, symptoms may not become evident until the disease has progressed to the point of causing vision loss. Your eye doctor can evaluate your vision and help develop a plan of action to better preserve the health of your eyes.
About the Author
Dr. Yasaira Rodriguez is a board-certified ophthalmologist at Elmquist Eye Group. With more than 25 years of service to the Southwest Florida community, Elmquist Eye Group provides patients with a range of medical, surgical, cosmetic and emergency eye care services and optical solutions through offices in Fort Myers and Cape Coral. For more information, visit www.Elmquist.com or call 239-936-2020.