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Macular Degeneration: Do Vitamins Really Help?

Macular Degeneration Before Treatment

It Depends on What Type of “Vitamin”

If you have macular degeneration, chances are (hopefully) that your eye doctor will discuss proper diet and vitamin supplementation.  But at LaFollette Eye Clinic, each optometrist can tell numerous stories of patients either disregarding or changing treatment regimens.  This is probably due to the great confusion surrounding vitamins in general.  Patients wonder whether they will help, and if they do, whether the cheaper alternatives will also be effective at preserving their vision.

Look at the photos to see the improvement in a patient who is regularly using supplements for macular degeneration.

The Same Eye After Two Years of Vitamin Therapy

A quick anatomy lesson: the photos show the inside of the back portion of the patient’s eye.  The yellow disc is the tip of the optic nerve, out of which arteries and veins radiate.  The dark red spot left of center is the macula.  In the first photo, both drusen (white spots) and pigment aggreagation (darker spots inside drusen) are apparent.  This is early macular degeneration.

Note the reduction in both the pigment and drusen in the second photo, which was taken two years after the patient began regularly using vitamins specifically formulated for macular degeneration (you may have to maximize the photos to appreciate the difference).  Like many patients, he mentioned the monthly cost of his vitamins. After having seen the photos, however, he no longer questions the value of sticking with his treatment plan.

The photos show just one example.  However, numerous studies have proven the effectiveness of proper diet and vitamin supplementation in slowing (and sometimes reversing) the effects of macular degeneration.  There is no arguing the treatment is effective.

For a review of good dietary practices for the eyes, check out this previous post.  As for vitamins, it’s best to stick with what your eye doctor prescribes.  Why?  A careful look at most over-the-counter vitamin supplements reveals the answer: most don’t have nearly enough essential ingredients.  For example, a certain amount of lutein (an essential yellow pigment found in the macula) is required for effectiveness.  Although most studies show this amount to be anywhere from six to ten milligrams, most OTC vitamin preparations contain only micrograms.  This is enough to put “lutein” on the bottle, but not nearly enough for effective treatment.

Multiply this effect across the range of nutrients needed in a supplement, and you get a nice looking pill with an attractive label, a cheaper price, but no scientifically proven benefit.  Most popular OTC vitamins fall into this category.  The doctors and staff at LaFollette Eye Clinic constantly battle this type of deceptive marketing.

Proper diet and vitamin therapy is essential to treat macular degeneration.  Simply put, it works.  But listen to your eye doctor’s treatment regimen and stick with it, avoiding the marketing schemes of less effective vitamins.


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