Nutrition and the Eye
Vitamins for Healthy Eyes / Nutritional Supplements
The general consensus is that the same things that are good for your body are good for your eyes: a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, drinking at least six glasses of water a day, regular exercise, and avoidance of cigarette smoke. Eye vitamins can help maintain eye health and protect our eyes against macular degeneration.
Although our bodies receive vitamins and minerals from the foods we eat, many of us do not receive enough. As we age, our eyes become more and more susceptible to certain conditions, and may require extra protection. Eye vitamins typically include:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin B2
Much of the research that has already been conducted points to the benefits of vitamins and antioxidants, specifically beta carotene, vitamin E, vitamin C, zinc, selenium, copper, manganese and lutein. The National Eye Institute’s recent Age-Related Eye Disease Study found that about one-fifth of patients with advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD) enjoyed a decreased risk of vision loss after taking high levels of zinc and antioxidants.
Lutein is found in the macula, but it is not produced by the body. It can be found naturally in high concentrations in dark green and leafy vegetables, including spinach, collard and mustard greens, chicory, escarole, kale, lettuce, Swiss chard and turnip greens. Eating five or more servings per week (at least ½ cup per serving, cooked or raw) of these vegetables may reduce the risk or slow the progression of AMD.
Dry Eye Management
Dry eye occurs when the eyes aren’t sufficiently moisturized, leading to itching, redness and pain from dry spots on the surface of the eye. The eyes may become dry and irritated because the tear ducts don’t produce enough tears, or because the tears themselves have a chemical imbalance. People usually begin experiencing dry eye symptoms as they age, but the condition can also result from certain medications, conditions or injuries. Dry eye is not only painful, it can also damage the eye’s tissues and impair vision.
Blepharoplasty, or eyelid surgery, is a treatment option if an eyelid condition is causing your dry eyes. By removing excess tissue and tightening the skin, eyelid surgery can increase the visual field and also correct the defect that resulted in dry eyes. It is typically performed as an outpatient procedure with local anesthesia. Complications are rare.
We also may be able to prevent or treat dry eyes nutritionally. There are many studies being conducted to help us learn more about the relationship between vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and eye health. So far, there have been promising findings associating Omega-3 fatty acids with a reduction of dry eye symptoms. Eating foods such as walnuts and coldwater fish like herring and mackerel that are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids or taking a supplement has been shown to lower the risk of developing dry eye syndrome. Researchers are not sure why, but it may be that they increase tear production or act as an anti-inflammatory within the body.