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Should I Take Vitamins for My Eyes?

nutrition freshly bagged parsleyThere are different eye vitamins for different reasons. It is important to know the health condition of your eyes before starting any vitamin supplement. Foods that are rich in many nutrients are generally more effective than any supplements. The most important nutrients for eye health include lutein and zeaxanthin, Vitamin C and E, beta-carotene and Omega 3 fatty acids. Top eyefoods include kale (nature’s sunscreen for the eyes), orange peppers, eggs and wild Alaskan salmon. Usually, a healthy diet that follows Canada Food Guide recommendations is sufficient.

However, busy Canadians often don’t have time to follow these meal guidelines. If the body is deficient in certain vitamins and there is a family history and associated disease, then vitamins can be beneficial. When you choose to take a vitamin, ask your doctor if a general multivitamin would be helpful, or a specific vitamin supplement is needed. Vitamins and herbal remedies are natural drugs that can be overdosed or affect how other medications work in your body, so it is important to find out what is the right vitamin for your body.

For example, dry eye syndrome affects many Calgarians, where people often use eyedrops to help. But along with artificial tears, taking a high-quality omega 3 supplement (1-3 g/day) over several months can reduce dry eye by improving the tear quality. However, a person that takes blood thinners needs to be cautious with taking omega 3 supplements, as excess bleeding and bruising can occur in the body.

green pillsAge-related macular degeneration (AMD) had a lot of research on vitamin supplements. Many people take lutein supplement thinking there is no harm in taking this to help the eyes. However, high dose lutein taken without zeaxanthin can cause a biochemical imbalance in the body and can be harmful. Many vitamins for AMD have been developed after the AREDS2 study (Age-Related Eye Disease Study). Recent controversy erupted regarding genetic testing to determine if supplemental zinc and antioxidants may actually cause more harm to the eyes. Currently, scientists generally agree that the AREDS2 study is safe for people that have been diagnosed with intermediate or advanced AMD, not for people that have healthy eyes who want to prevent AMD.

A thorough eye exam (that includes dilating the pupils for a complete retinal exam) can detect these problems before they impair vision. A diabetic can minimize the effects on the eyes by maintaining tight control of blood sugar levels, not by taking extra vitamins. The good news is that when you follow a healthy diet, it automatically helps to manage diabetes, control high blood pressure or elevated cholesterol, as well as prevent eye disease.

Medicare is promoting health prevention, as this is fewer taxpayer dollars than attempting to repair the damage by surgery on eyes, or kidney dialysis and transplant. Take a moment to focus on your eyes – Dr. Dianna Leong, Dr. Anh Bui and Dr. Elizabeth Yan would be happy to help you determine how is your eye health.