by Beau T. Bryan, M.D.
As comprehensive ophthalmologists, we are commonly asked about the need for eye vitamins in maintaining ocular health. Here are brief thoughts on the subject.
In general, a healthy lifestyle and healthy diet are always a good thing. We do not yet understand all the causes for eye disease, but we do know that disease of the body and poor lifestyle habits are associated with clinical eye disease. Hence, we do recommend regular exercise and a diet rich in leafy green vegetables while avoiding lots of fatty, fried foods. Eye Vitamins – per se – are not needed. None of our ophthalmologists take them.
Those with age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) are a special population with regard to eye vitamins. Several large studies have been done. In summary, if you have enough macular degeneration on your eye examination, then taking a specific eye vitamin cocktail will lower the chance of developing significant vision loss by about 25%. This is not a magic bullet, but it does pretty well for a vitamin!
If eye vitamins are recommended by your doctor for macular degeneration, then a common question is which one to purchase. We recommend an eye vitamin with the “AREDS” endorsement. This stands for Age-Related Eye Disease Study. There are several AREDS studies published, but the key is that your vitamin uses the same ingredients that have been proven to help. Current or former smokers should use a special AREDS formula without beta-carotene; moreover, we urge you to quit smoking to lower your risk of vision loss. Talk to your ophthalmologist for more information.
Sadly, in 2015 we still have no good treatment for dry macular degeneration except for eye vitamins and a healthy lifestyle. We do have options for treating the wet variety of the disease (about 10% of macular degeneration cases), but not the dry form. We look forward to future studies on how to prevent this most common cause of blindness in our elderly population.
Questions? Our ophthalmologists at The Eye Center would be happy to take a look anytime. Please call our office at 803-256-0641 and ask for an appointment to screen for medical eye disease
1) Yong JJ, Scott IU, Greenberg PB. Ocular nutritional supplements. Ophthalmology 2015;122(3):595-599.