Age-Related Eye Disease and Vitamins
Many treatment options for age-related macular degeneration (AMD) are in the experimental stage. The dry type of AMD, in which there is no bleeding under the retina, is difficult to study because it progresses slowly over a long period of time years or even decades. One such study is the Age Related Eye Disease Study I (AREDS I). The AREDS I study took 10 years and resulted in the AREDS vitamin containing antioxidants and zinc.
These vitamins were found to slow down the progression of the dry type of AMD in high-risk patients. The AREDS report did not show an effect of vitamin supplementation on people with no AMD or early stage AMD. Patients with intermediate or advanced AMD, according to the AREDS report, may benefit from vitamin supplementation. If you have early-stage dry macular degeneration, a comprehensive dilated eye exam every year can help determine if the disease is progressing. If early-stage dry macular degeneration progresses to the intermediate stage, talk to your doctor about taking specific vitamins for macular degeneration.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin
The substances you are most likely to hear touted as protection from AMD are lutein and zeaxanthin. These were not included in the AREDS I study. They are believed to be helpful and have shown no harm in smaller studies, but there is no definitive answer as to whether these substances help or not. More studies are ongoing to help determine their true benefit.
Multivitamins for Macular
A multivitamin alone cannot provide the same levels of antioxidants and zinc as the formulation used in AREDS I. The formulations levels of antioxidants and zinc are considerably higher than the amounts in any daily multivitamin.
If you are already taking daily multivitamins and your eye doctor suggests you take the high-dose vitamins for AMD, be sure to review all your vitamin supplements with your primary care doctor before you begin. Because multivitamins contain many important vitamins not found in the macular degeneration formulation, you may want to take a multivitamin along with the vitamins for AMD.
But Not For Everyone
The AREDS formula is considered a therapeutic dose and should be treated like medicine. In particular, patients who are smoking are advised not to take supplements with high doses of beta-carotene, due to an increase in lung cancer rates. High-dose nutrients can interfere with medications and can interact with other nutrients to decrease the absorption of nutrients into the body.
In general, treating yourself with high doses of vitamins for macular degeneration is not recommended. Individuals who are considering taking high-dose vitamins for macular degeneration should discuss this with their primary care doctors and/or eye care professionals. They can help you determine which formulation and dosages are best for you.
Vitamins for macular degeneration are not a cure. They will not restore vision already lost from the disease. They may delay the onset of advanced macular degeneration. They may also help people who are at high risk for developing advanced macular degeneration keep their vision.