Americans have pursued a never ending search for nutrients, and supplements in an effort to improve ocular health and prevent eye diseases. While many advertized items have little or no actual benefit, there are some that have been shown to be helpful, and efficacious. Over the last half century research has started to embrace these supplements as beneficial to our health, and their impact on one's general well being.

Understanding the aging, and physiological processes offers a pathway to the benefits of these nutrients. Cataracts, Macular Degeneration, dry eyes and other age related disorders are but a few of the considerations that these neutricuticals are targeted to address. A study conducted by West and associates concluded that there are some supplements that are very helpful and when taken properly will prevent damage and even do some repair.

Research conducted by the Age Related Eye Disease Study ( AREDS) found that individuals who took antioxidant combinations of 500 IU Vit C, 400 IU Vit E, 15 mg of beta carotene and Zinc for approximately 6 years had a 17%-21% lower rate of Age Related Macular Degeneration(ARMD) progression as compared to individuals in the placebo group. Patients who took Zinc or antioxidants alone also showed a decrease in the progression of ARMD, but not to the extend as the first group. No benefit was shown with the folks who took Vit E alone. In addition, participants who took Lutein for 18-20 weeks demonstrated higher plasma levels, and increased macular pigment density. This would counter the ARMD damage and improve visual quality.

The West and associate study found no benefit at all in preventing, improving or reversing the damage caused by Cataracts or Diabetic Retinopathy. Herbal remedies, antioxidants, and all vitamins were found to be useless with regard to these two conditions.

Unlike cataracts, Glaucoma has been shown to be aided by the use of supplements. Cannabinoids have demonstrated an ability to lower the intraocular pressure, thereby lowering the visual devastations of Glaucoma. The problem with this supplement is obtaining an accepted method of administration that is regulated, dose reproducible and legal. Additional studies have shown that Ginkgo Biloba has improved the visual fields of normal tension glaucoma patients with as little as four weeks of use. The reason is believed to be the vasodilating affect of this supplement. Bringing more blood, and oxygen to the starved retinal tissue. Bilberry has not been clinically demonstrated to aid glaucoma patients in any way.

While additional studies must be conducted to asses all the benefits of these, and other nutritional supplements, it is clear that some do help. Furthermore, of equal importance is the drug interaction of supplements with both each other and prescription medicines. Many herbs, drugs and supplements can and do increase/ decrease the affect of other substances when present at the same time. Care must always be taken and warnings displayed. In all cases, one must consult with their health care professionals as to what supplements can be safely used.

Author's Bio: 

This article is written by Dr. Jay Stockman, contributing author to Dr. Jay Stockman, with his partner Dr. Brian Lewy have co-managed a significant number of refractive surgery patients. Advise, and medical questions can be directed to New York Vision Associates