Scientists have long debated whether taking vitamins and/or mineral supplements could help prevent, treat, or cure certain eye conditions including Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). The first Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) trial, sponsored by the National Eye Institute (NEI), a division of the National Institutes of Health, reported in 2001 that a high dose of antioxidant vitamins and Zinc can reduce the risk of developing advanced AMD by about 25 percent over a five year period. The original AREDS formulation contained Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Beta-carotene, Zinc and Copper.
A follow-up study (AREDS 2) was conducted between 2006 to 2012 to determine if they could improve upon the original AREDS formulation. The results found that Beta-carotene, an ingredient which may increase the risk of developing lung cancer among smokers, could be replaced with Lutein and Zeaxanthin and provide additional risk reduction.
The Results of the AREDS/AREDS 2 Trials Showed a Number of Important Things
- High levels of antioxidants and Zinc can reduce the risk of vision loss from advanced AMD by about 30% in high-risk patients (patients with intermediate AMD or advanced AMD in one eye but not the other).
- Supplements do not provide significant benefit to patients with minimal AMD, nor do they improve vision already lost to AMD.
- A daily multi-vitamin is safe to take along with the AREDS/AREDS 2 formula, but cannot substitute for the high dose antioxidants and zinc found in the AREDS/AREDS2 formula.
- Adding Omega 3 Fatty Acids (found in fish oil supplements) and removing Beta-carotene from the original AREDS formula did not have any effect on progression rates to advanced AMD.
- While most patients in the study experienced no serious side effects from the doses of Zinc and antioxidants used, a few taking zinc alone had urinary tract problems that required hospitalization. There was no increased risk of prostate cancer found during either the AREDS or AREDS 2 trials with high-dose Vitamin E in male participants. The participants in the first AREDS trial have now been followed for 10 years, and the benefits of the first AREDS formulation have persisted over this time and appears to be safe.
Should I Take Nutritional Supplements?
If you have intermediate AMD, or advanced AMD in one eye only, talk to your physician about taking Nutritional supplements to determine if they will benefit you. The doses used in the AREDS 2 study were as follows:
- 10 mg Lutein and 2 mg Zeaxanthin
- Vitamin C 500 mg/day (contraindications include kidney stones and use of Coumadin)
- Vitamin E 400 IU/day (associated with fatigue, muscle weakness, decreased thyroid function, and risk of hemorrhagic stroke)
- Zinc 80 mg/day, as zinc oxide (associated with anemia and upset stomach)
- Copper 2mglday, as cupric oxide (copper should be taken with zinc, because high dose zinc is associated with copper deficiency)
It is very important to talk with your physician before taking large doses of supplements, and to follow his/her dosage recommendations carefully. Some supplements may interfere with each other or other medications. More information on the AREDS 2 trial is available from the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health, http://www.nei.nih.gov/areds2/PatientFAQ.asp
Focus Select Eye Vitamins
The Retina Care Center recommends Focus Select eye vitamins. Focus Select adheres closely to the AREDS 2formulation, providing a premium supplement which promotes macular health and is safe for smokers and non-smokers alike.
FOCUS Select eye vitamins are produced by Covalent Medical LLC., a group of more than 400 retina specialists across the country that tapped their collective treatment experience and extensive research work to create a national brand dedicated to serving patients suffering from Macular Degeneration. For more information on this physician-recommended macula vitamin that is now available for purchase by the general public, please visit www.focusvitamins.com or ask your retina specialist at The Retina Care Center.