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Vitamins for Vision: How Vitamins Can Slow the Progression of Macular Degeneration

Macular Degeneration Vitamins

Our eyes play a significant role in daily activities. When they start to fail, we do what we can to improve how they function. Whether it is glasses, contacts, eye exercises, or surgery, we do our best to keep our vision intact. What can also make an impact is vitamin supplementation. For example, when macular degeneration begins to occur, vitamins can help to slow the effects of the disease. In this article we look at the best macular degeneration vitamins, so you can help protect your vision.

Understanding Macular Degeneration


Macular degeneration is also known as age-related macular degeneration (AMD). This condition causes blurriness in the center of a person’s visual field, meaning fine details become difficult to see, but peripheral vision remains unchanged. Macular degeneration is classified by two types: dry AMD and wet AMD.

Dry AMD

Dry AMD is the more common of the two forms of macular degeneration and makes up 80% of cases. With dry AMD, the macula becomes thinner as a person becomes older. As a person with dry AMD ages, yellow clumps of protein (drusen) grow in the eye. The thinning macula and tiny protein deposits cause a slow loss of central vision.

Wet AMD

Although dry AMD occurs slowly, wet AMD occurs much more quickly. Wet AMD is more serious than dry AMD, though it is also less common. Blood vessels form under the retina and can leak fluids. The blood vessels can scar the macula, causing a loss of vision.

What Causes Macular Degeneration?

Macular degeneration often occurs with age, and women are affected more often than men. There are also other risk factors that increase the probability of developing the disease:

  • Being over 50 years of age
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Consuming a diet high in saturated fats
  • A family history of AMD

What Are the Symptoms Like?

It’s easy for people with macular degeneration to overlook their condition, especially when both eyes are disproportionately affected. Very often, people discover macular degeneration on a routine visit to their family physician or eye doctor through an eye exam.

Early signs may be:

  • Blurred or fuzzy vision, mainly in the center of their eyesight
  • Words on a page may appear wavy or distorted
  • Difficulty seeing under low light conditions and glare

Treatment Options

For both dry AMD and wet AMD, lenses and magnifiers can make seeing clearly possible. Despite the fact that there is no cure for AMD, treatments are available to slow down its progression.

When it comes to wet AMD, treatments focus on the blood vessels affecting the eyes. Wet AMD eye treatments attempt to shrink blood vessels and halt abnormal blood growth. Because wet AMD can occur quickly, immediate interventions can help curb wet AMD’s adverse effects.

Dry AMD, on the other hand, may be treated through vitamin supplementation. Though these vitamins help with the symptoms of macular degeneration, they are not curing. What’s more, vitamin supplementation makes the most difference when there is already a deficiency of the vitamin to begin with.

How Can Vitamins Help Macular Degeneration?

There are certain vitamins that are most effective when used to treat AMD. A group of studies called Age-Related Eye Disease Studies (AREDS/AREDS2) found that the following vitamins can slow the progress of macular degeneration by as much as 25%. Based on two major studies, two vitamin supplementation regimens were developed to curb macular degeneration: AREDS and AREDS2.

AREDS:

  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Beta-carotene
  • Copper
  • Zinc

AREDS 2:

  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Copper
  • Zinc
  • Lutein
  • Zeaxanthin

Beta Carotene, Lutein and Zeaxanthin

The three vitamins (beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin) are in the carotenoid vitamin family. Usually found in green leafy vegetables, these vitamins are used to make vitamin A by the body. Lutein and zeaxanthin are vitamins used in the retina and lens of the eyes, where they help absorb damaging types of light.

Copper

High levels of zinc intake may cause copper deficiency. In efforts to balance the effects of zinc, copper is added to both regimens (AREDS/AREDS2). The body uses copper, along with iron, to produce red blood cells.

Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is a potent antioxidant. Found in fruits and vegetables, vitamin C helps when it comes to macular degeneration. Vitamin C helps to slow the progression.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is an antioxidant found in fortified cereals and nuts. It protects the eyes from free radicals, keeping eye tissue healthy for longer.

Zinc

Zinc is known as a "helper molecule” by bringing eye-friendly vitamin A other parts of the body to the retina.

Notes on Macular Degeneration Vitamins

It’s important to note that a medical professional or eye doctor should be consulted prior to starting a vitamin regimen. For example, beta-carotene is excluded for AREDS 2 because for some patient populations, such as heavy smokers, high doses of beta-carotene can have adverse effects. It’s always best to consult a professional before starting supplementation.

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