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KEITH HILLIARD: Vitamins can aid the eyes

on May 07, 2013 11:00 AM

On of the most frequently asked questions I’ve been asked lately is “Do eye vitamins really work”?

I’m sure one of the reasons is because of the amount of television advertising on eye vitamins, especially Ocuvite.

The answer depends on what you’re really asking: Can they help prevent disease/ blindness? Yes.

Can they help you see better or get rid of glasses? No.

In 2001, the National Eye Institute released its nationwide long-term study called the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS).

The study demonstrated a 25 percent reduced risk of advanced macular degeneration in patients taking high doses of anti-oxidant vitamins C, E, beta-carotene, zinc and copper compared to patients not taking the supplements.

While this was certainly no cure, it still was a significant positive leap in supplements and eye care.

In 2006, the AREDS II wanted to see if additional anti-oxidants and fish oil could further reduce the risk of progression in macular degeneration.

The results of AREDS II are expected later this year but preliminary reports show a positive link in reduced risk of progression.

There have been numerous smaller scale studies suggesting the same positive results with regards to macular degeneration.

Interestingly, none of these studies showed any benefit to reduced cataract progression, only macular degeneration.

Also, these studies did not look at reducing the risk of macular degeneration in patients before they acquired the disease.

Therefore, we have no evidence based recommendations on patients that may be at risk of acquiring macular degeneration.

However, I personally do recommend patients that are at risk of developing macular degeneration (age 60+, family history and/ or smoke) take a multi-vitamin, lutein and omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil).

I also recommend they wear sunglasses that have both ultraviolet and blue-light blocking ability, as newer evidence shows blue-light from the sun is a contributing risk factor for macular degeneration. In our practice, we also prescribe fish oil supplements for dry eye syndrome.

Also, please ask a trusted health care professional which supplements/brands they recommend.

Because vitamins and supplements are not regulated by the FDA, you have no idea what you are actually purchasing. As many as 90 percent of over-the-counter vitamins exaggerate their labels and, at worst, what’s actually in them can make you sick. It is a multi-billion dollar industry and the marketing is relentless with many false claims.

Lastly, vitamins and/or supplements can’t make you see any better and they certainly can’t make your eyeglass prescription get any better.

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