Q: Which eye vitamin or vitamin supplement is best to slow the progression of macular degeneration? Would that choice need to be updated with aging and the state of the progression?
A: AREDS2 (Age-Related Eye Disease Study) formula vitamins have been shown to slow down the progression of macular degeneration in 25 percent of people at intermediate and advanced stages of this disease, according to Dr. MICHAEL TSIPURSKY, a Carle vitreoretinal surgeon.
Any generic or brand name AREDS2 vitamins can be taken, he said. The vitamins contain 500 mg of vitamin C, 400 international units of vitamin E, 80 mg of zinc as zinc oxide, 2 mg of copper as cupric oxide, 10 mg of lutein and 2 mg of zeaxanthin.
These vitamins are usually taken twice a day, and they have the most benefit when they're taken at intermediate and advanced stages of macular degeneration, according to Tsipursky.
"Unfortunately, no preventative benefit has been found with AREDS formula vitamins in early macular degeneration," he said.
Macular degeneration is caused by deterioration of the central part of the retina, called the macula. It results in the loss of central vision.
As the disease begins to progress, people may notice distortion, blurring and sometimes a drop-out in small parts of central vision, Tsipursky said.
"The best way to follow progression of macular degeneration is with a checkered grid called Amsler grid," he said. "All patients with macular degeneration should check their vision with this grid, one eye at a time, several times a week. If there are any changes, they should report these to their eye care provider."
There are two forms of this disease: dry (the most common form) and wet. While macular degeneration is considered to be incurable, there are good treatment options for the wet form, especially if it's caught early, Tsipurski said.
The AREDS vitamin mix arose from a study done at the National Institute of Health's National Eye Institute, and the AREDS2 formula came from a second, later study seeking to improve on the first.
Risk factors for macular degeneration include a family history of the disease, smoking, being over 60, obesity and hypertension.
Exposure to UV light is also a negative contributing factor, and patients with macular degeneration are advised to wear UV protective eyewear, Tsipurski said. Nutrition is still another important aspect of this disease.
The eye-healthy diet advised by the American Academy of Ophthalmology is one that includes dark leafy greens such as spinach and kale, and yellow, orange and other colorful fruits and vegetables. But it's difficult to get the high levels of vitamins and minerals needed to delay the progression of macular degeneration through food alone, according to the ophthalmology group.
For example, people can take in high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin through dark leafy vegetables, Tsipurski said, "but it is not a substitute for AREDS formula vitamins."