All You Need to Know about Eye Health
The English language carries a vast array of metaphors about the eyes and implicitly about eye health, too. “What you see is what you get”, “seeing is believing”, and, of course, “eyes are the windows to the soul” is what we all say. With that in mind, it might strike many as odd that eye health doesn’t seem to be a priority in the United States. The most recent data on the eye health of Americans ages 12 and up, paint a grim picture, and one that many eyes can literally not see. Some 11 million US inhabitants could benefit from refractive correction to improve their eyesight. Over 3.3 million Americans aged 40 and above are legally blind, with eyesight of 6/60 or, worse off, 20/200.
There are many diseases and afflictions that seem to be plaguing America’s eyesight nowadays. Many are serious enough to require surgery, correction, or at least some form of sustained medical treatment. Yet there are also those which can be pre-empted with a few life hacks, such as a proper diet, good habits, and some eye health supplements and vitamins. Read on to learn the answers to all the above questions, as well as plenty more about what can keep your vision 20/20 for many years to come.
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The Most Common 3 Diseases of the Eye in the United States
Some eye diseases are related to dysfunctional physiology and anatomy and, even though these are the most commonly encountered problems, there are plenty others worth mentioning. Some progress with age, some can be present from birth, while others are even caused by other diseases, like diabetes. Here are the 5 most frequently encountered eye diseases in the U.S. today.
#1 Refractive errors
You probably already know them by their popular names: being nearsighted (or myopic), being farsighted (or hyperopic), and distorted vision regardless of distance (astigmatism). The fifth eye disease in this category is presbyopia, which occurs between the ages of 40 and 50 and means you can’t focus up-close, so as to read the paper or look someone up in the phone book. All these eye health issues can be corrected through a wide range of methods, including contact lenses, eye glasses, or precision eye surgery.
#2 Macular degeneration with age
Age-related macular degeneration (or AMD, in short), stems from growing older and results in blurred vision, as well as a loss of central vision. It affects the center of the retina, which is the anatomic element ‘designed’ to enable focusing on small details. There are two types of AMD: wet macular degeneration happens when blood vessels that shouldn’t normally be there begin to grow under the retina. Dry macular degeneration, the more common form, makes up 70 to 90% of all cases and is slow to progress. It’s usually signaled by the presence of drusen, small white or yellow accumulations underneath the retina. Some 1.8 million Americans aged 40 and over suffer from AMD, with an estimated 2.95 million sufferers expected by 2020.
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Cataracts can be caused by a large number of factors and can be present from birth. It’s the number one cause of blindness at a global level, even though it can rather easily be removed. However, the procedure is not exactly widely affordable, which causes many patients eventually go blind, due to a lack of proper treatment. 20.5 million people in America (that is, 17.2% of the population ages 40 and over) have cataracts in one, or both eyes, and 6.1 million of them have had their eye lens removed through surgery. Health authorities expect the number of cataract sufferers in America to increase to 30.1 million by 2020. Click here to learn about common symptoms of cataract problems.
There are many other types of eye health issues affecting Americans nowadays, including amblyopia, strabismus, and problems co-occurring with diabetes, which, if left untreated, often devolve into blindness. However, since macular degeneration is the second biggest problem in this category, in the following we will focus on identifying its symptoms as early on as possible, and also on treating it adequately.
Macular Degeneration Symptoms and Treatment
As explained above, macular degeneration is highly prevalent in the United States, especially among the elderly. The symptoms and treatment suggestions outlined below target both types of AMD, but especially the most common dry type.
Dry AMD symptoms
Dry macular degeneration might be difficult to spot in its early stages, or at least until the drusen develops. Since it targets the center of the retina, it’s time to worry if:
- You can no longer perceive straight lines without distortions, especially toward the central part of the eye;
- Your central vision is affected by the presence of darker, blurry areas, or by white blind spots;
- You can’t quite tell colors apart anymore, or are having trouble identifying colors. This is a symptom that is more rare, but does sometimes occur.
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If you can cross any of the items off the above list, its time to go see your ophthalmologist (no pun intended). They will prescribe the proper treatment and will tell you if your current dry AMD status requires surgical intervention. That being said, its a good idea to screen for AMD even if you don’t experience the symptoms above. This is especially true for people ages 45 and older at this age, you can expect your eyesight to deteriorate and should thus have a full eye exam as early on as possible. Then, return for follow-up exams every 2-4 years.
If your doctor confirms that you are experiencing age-related macular degeneration, you will then have to check your eyesight on a daily basis. Inform your ophthalmologist of any changes in the quality of your eyesight and allow them to test you with the sophisticated, specialized equipment in their office.
Age-related macular degeneration treatment
Right off the bat, it’s important to understand that, once those eye floaters (drusen) have appeared and you’ve been diagnosed with ARM, you will never be able to get rid of this eye illness. Macular degeneration has no cure and is currently regarded as an irreversible process. However, modern ophthalmology has come up with treatments that can slow down the evolution of the disorder and maintain the current quality of your eyesight for as long as possible. Here are some of the most often employed ARM treatments on the market right now:
- Medication against angiogenesis. This includes drugs like Avastin, Lucentis, Macugen, and Eyelea, which stop new blood vessels from developing under the eye. In plain English, these drugs will stop the leaking and bleeding that cause wet ARM. Though such treatment often involves repeat applications, it has been widely received as a massive improvement in life quality for wet ARM sufferers. Many report completely regaining vision which was once lost.
- Several vitamins and minerals have been attested as useful in slowing down the progression of dry ARM, which is confirmed by the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health through a large-scale study. This study is called AREDS, or the Age-Related Eye Disease Study. We’ll dive deeper into the list of useful eye health vitamins and supplements below, but it’s important to note that the study cited above only confirmed improvements for a formula containing vitamins C and E, plus beta-carotene, copper, and zinc—and only in certain participants.
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- (Photodynamic) laser therapy. In some cases, the abnormally occurring blood vessels that grow under the retina can be surgically removed, with the aid of potent lasers beams. There’s a two-stage variant to this treatment, which also involves the use of a photosensitive drug called Visudyne. This drug, whose goal is to effectively destroy the vessels in question, is injected into the patient’s blood. Then, the doctor seeks to remove the vessels by shining a cold laser into the eye and activate the drug.
- Electronic aids for low vision. People who have very poor eyesight because of macular degeneration can benefit from wearing special aids with sophisticated lenses, and/or electronic components. These enable them to see objects in their proximity, thanks to an enlarged image created by the vision aids.
Scientists are also working hard toward developing alternative forms of treatment for age-related macular degeneration. Though they haven’t been sufficiently researched yet, these include surgery to remove the sub-retinal blood vessels, as well as retinal translocation. The latter involves rotating the center of the retina away, as to expose the abnormal vessels and remove them with a laser beam.
3 Priceless Eye Health Tips
The advice below will strike you as incredibly commonsensical, but it bears repeating, because of the dramatic number of Americans affected by eye health issues. You’ve heard it all before, but allow us to drill you with it, for the sake of your vision.
1. Give up smoking.
In case you thought smoking only damages your lungs (not to mention your blood circulation, heart, stomach, breath, throat, skin, etc.), allow us to tell you that it’s also very bad for your eyes. How so? It significantly ups your risk of damagin your optic nerve, experiencing macular degeneration, and even getting cataracts.
2. Protect your eyes outdoors.
Similarly, UV rays are not only bad for your skin—they can damage your eyes, too. In order to avoid suffering from cataracts and macular degeneration from an early age, go for sunglasses which block out 99 to 100% of UVA and UVB rays. Opt for polarized lenses, which help reduce glare behind the wheel, and wraparound lenses, which will shield your peripheral vision, too. If you wear contacts, you should know that some do protect you against UV rays. However, it always pays off to be extra cautious, so wear sunglasses, too.
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3. Protect your eyes indoors.
This reads as “look away from the computer screen”. If you don’t, you’re very likely to experience trouble focusing in the distance, migraines, dry eyes, shoulder, back, and neck pain, as well as eyestrain. Adjust your prescription for glasses as to make sure they match your needs while typing away. Wear glasses at the computer, even if you don’t need them in other contexts—they help you cope with glare, contrast, and eyestrain. Avoid glare from direct sunlight, blink as often as you can, to moisten your eyes, and position your screen so that you’re always slightly looking down on it.
The Best Vitamin Supplements for Eye Health
Can you overdose on multivitamin supplements for your vision? And should you? Some research suggests you might actually benefit from it, if you’re already suffering from problems such as AMR. Yet, do understand that supplements are means of alleviating mild symptomsnone of them can actually cure glaucoma or restore full 2020 vision after cataract on their own. And, after all is said and done, is there enough research to go out on a limb and start taking supplements? Which ones work and which ones are cleverly crafted OTC hoaxes? Making a promise they can’t keep reading, to find out what the scientists are saying about all this and remember to always consult with your doctor before starting any kind of nutrient and vitamin supplementation.
These are the only nutrients proven to work for correcting eye health problems
Check out the list below. Take a good look at it, then examine your diet. Chances are you’re already getting plenty of these nutritive substances, vitamins, and minerals from the foods you eat on a regular basis. Here are a few foods that support eye health. Then, take a close look at the label of the supplement you’re considering. Make sure the product is well within expiration limits and only buy from reputable manufacturers. There are plenty of supplement producing companies out there trying to flounce FDA rules. If you opt for a supplement containing omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil, make sure the label clearly states that contaminants such as mercury have been eliminated in the process. Finally, consider buying a multivitamin supplement that only contains organic ingredients. We advise you to shop organics because, even though they might cost more, in the long run, they might also act as a better investment in your health. Here are the ingredients and minimal amounts you should be looking for:
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- Vitamin C: 250 mg
- Vitamin E: 200mg
- Beta-carotene: 5,000 IU
- Zinc: 25mg
- Zeaxanthin: 500mcg
- Selenium: 100mcg
- Lutein: 10mg
- Calcium: 500mg
- Thiamin: 2mg
- Folic acid: 800mcg
- Omega-3 essential fatty acids: 2,000-3,000mg
- N-acetyl cysteine: 100mg
- Alpha lipoic acid: 100mg
On the topic of taking supplements for vision health with high doses of nutrients, the AREDS study also cited above (AREDS) mentions that high doses of antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene are recommended for people at risk of losing their eyesight because of AMD. The same goes for zinc, but all of the above only applies to people with advanced AMD in one eye, or intermediate AMD in both eyes. The AREDS2 study might look at supplements with different ingredients, and has thus far found that beta-carotene and omega-3 fatty acids didn’t effectively stop the progression of AMD. Also, the formula still worked with less zinc, and worked better with lutein and zeaxanthin instead of beta-carotene.
Thus far, we’ve focused on inner eye care and preventionbut what about less serious concerns, such as red eyes, dark under-eye circles, or frequent eye twitching. Indeed, there are substances that directly address these concerns, so make sure your favorite creams or serums include them:
- Retinol (Vitamin A). Theres little in terms of eye problems that vitamin A cant solve. Also known as retinol, its especially efficient against eye health issues when used in conjunction with beta-carotene. To boot, retinol is a great enemy against skin aging and wrinkles, while also being able to ward off dark circles under your eyes, eye dryness, and night blindness.
- Vitamin K. Vitamin K is often underappreciated, in spite of its many positive effects on the body. Recent studies have shown that, aside from preventing blood clots and encouraging calcium absorption for stronger bones, vitamin K is also great for eye health. It helps prevent age-related macular degeneration and also aids in dealing with eye twitches.
- Vitamin D. One study suggests that a vitamin K deficiency will render your vitamin D intake inefficientand the other way around, too. In other words, when supplementing one for eye health, make sure to cover your daily recommended dose for the other, as well. Got an eye twitch Youve probably heard its because of a calcium deficiency. This is partly true, but if you want to get rid of the nuisance, you should also supplement for electrolytes, vitamin B12, and vitamin D.
So, when you draw the line, what are some good supplements, creams, drops, and serum solutions for healthy eyes Heres our list of recommendations, for all purposes and uses:
- Bausch Lomb Ocuvite Eye Vitamins. Though counter-indicated for people who take blood thinners, Ocuvite vitamin formulas have proven some success in treating or alleviating symptoms of certain eye health problems. The list includes red and teary eyes caused by blepharitis, PVD, and even AMD in the early stages. The list of reported side effects includes stomach cramps, diarrhea, and nose bleeds.
- Revitalizing Eye Cream from Avalon Organics. This eye cream is very affordable and (circa $12 for 1oz) is produced by the same manufacturers who also sell a popular gel and serum for the same skin area. The main active ingredient is vitamin C, which allegedly works against oxidative stress on the skin, by promoting the production of collagen and elastin.
- Evoa Supplemental Eye Vitamins. This formula is AREDS2 compliant and contains 500mg of vitamin C, 400 IU of vitamin E, 80mg of zinc, and 2mg copper, plus 10mg Lutein and 450mg Omega-3 fatty acids (as EPA and DHA).
- ICAPS Eye Vitamins by Alcon. Alcon produces several vitamin supplements for the eyes, including a multivitamin formula and one that is AREDS-compliant. The AREDS formula, though similar to many other products in its category, stands out for being fairly affordable ($17 for 120 tablets at Walmart), as well as lactose-free.
- EverydayVet Vision Plus Health Supplement for Dogs and Cats. With its all-natural formula and rather decent price of around $22 for 60 capsules, EverydayVet Vision Plus is made from all natural ingredients. It allegedly helps prevent eye fatigue, irritability, and vision problems in pets. Its certified by the FDA and approved by the Company of US Veterinarians. They contain lutein, billberry, lyches, and several other plant-based substances.
- PreserVision Eye Vitamin Lutein Formula Soft Gels. Based on the AREDS formula from Bausch Lomb, this supplement substitutes beta-caroten with 10mg of Lutein. Its recommended for people who have already been diagnosed with moderate to advanced AMD, but who cannot tolerate beta-carotene, such as smokers.
- Murad Resurgence Renewing Eye Cream. The main active ingredients in this anti-aging formula with renewal effects for the eye area are Palmitoyl Pentapeptide-4 and a patented Eye Brightening Complex. This well-reviewed cream has proven efficient in fighting dark circles, puffy eyes, crows feet and other common eye skin issues.