Keep a Sharp Eye on Vision Health
Julian Whitaker, MD
Almost all of us will experience some degree of vision impairment as we get older. For most, it’s “short-arm syndrome.” You can see clearly at a distance, but to focus on printed materials and small objects, you have to hold them further and further away—even beyond the reach of your arms. This condition, caused by a loss of elasticity of the lenses, is a normal part of aging and can be corrected by glasses or contacts.
That said, some vision issues defy corrective lenses. Nearly 30 million Americans have cataracts, glaucoma, retinopathy, and/or macular degeneration, all of which can lead to permanent vision loss. Although these conditions crop up with increasing frequency as we age, they are by no means normal or inevitable. Better yet, by adopting a handful of natural therapies, serious eye disorders can be prevented, arrested, and in some cases, actually reversed.
Healthy Body, Healthy Eyes
It stands to reason that overall well-being and eye health go hand in hand. Smoking triples risk of cataracts and quadruples risk of macular degeneration. Hypertension damages the blood vessels in the retina and may result in retinopathy. Metabolic syndrome is associated with cataracts, and obesity with glaucoma. But the most significant harbinger of serious vision problems is diabetes.
Elevated blood sugar and, more importantly, deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals, which are endemic in the diabetic population, dramatically increase the risk of glaucoma, cataracts, and retinopathy. If you have diabetes, you’d best pay attention, because the prevalence of diabetic retinopathy—the leading cause of blindness in Americans under age 75—is on the rise. Between 2000 and 2010, it increased by 89 percent!
Your Eyes on Drugs
You also need to make sure the drugs you’re taking aren’t putting your eyes in harm’s way. In a study published in August 2012, Canadian researchers examined associations between cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, diabetes, and cataracts. As expected, they found a significant increase (82 percent) in risk of developing cataracts in patients with diabetes. But they also discovered that taking statin drugs conferred a 57 percent increase. Having diabetes and taking a statin was the worst possible scenario—these individuals developed cataracts 5.6 years earlier than nondiabetics not on statins.
Statins aren’t the only drugs that impact vision. A comprehensive article published in Drug Safety identified 62 different medications that had adverse effects on the eyes!
See Better with Supplements
What if you’ve already been diagnosed with an eye disease? Serious vision disorders may require medical intervention. For example, if advanced cataracts cloud your vision and interfere with your daily activities, by all means talk to your doctor about surgical removal. But to stave off or nip problems in the bud, targeted nutrients are the way to go.
For early cataracts, clinical trials have demonstrated that the majority of study subjects who used eye drops containing the amino acid derivative N-acetyl-carnosine twice a day had improvements in visual acuity, glare sensitivity, and lens opacity, while a placebo group had a worsening of symptoms. Mirtogenol, a blend of bilberry and pycnogenol, reduced intraocular pressures and improved blood flow in the eyes in study volunteers with glaucoma or retinopathy.
The 10-year Age-Related Eye Disease Study proved that high doses of antioxidants (vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, and zinc) significantly reduced the risk of advanced macular degeneration and vision loss in patients with early-stage disease. And additional research has highlighted the benefits of a broad range of phytonutrients, including lutein and zeaxanthin—carotenoids found in leafy greens that protect the retina by absorbing harmful wavelengths of light and scavenging free radicals.
Works for Patients and Subscribers
I’ve taken this research to heart. For more than 25 years, we’ve been treating all kinds of vision problems at Whitaker Wellness with therapeutic doses of antioxidant vitamins and minerals; lutein, zeaxanthin, and other carotenoids; anthocyanosides from bilberry and black currant (to improve light-dark adaptation and reduce glare); and other eye-nourishing nutrients. The feedback we get from patients and subscribers is nothing short of astounding.
“I have diabetes and was told during a retinal screen that my eyes were bleeding and I needed laser treatment right away. I asked my doctor to give me six weeks to try a more natural approach and if there was no improvement, I would have the laser. He advised me I could be blind by then, but I had confidence in your recommendations. Six weeks later, my doctor told me my eyes looked better than if he had lasered them and to continue what I was doing. I still use these supplements and have had no sign of bleeding—plus my vision has improved to 20–25.” — L.L., California
“After I was told I have glaucoma, I started taking nutritional supplements to improve the health of my eyes. One year later, the glaucoma had not progressed and my doctor told me he had no reason to give me a prescription.” — Howard Christensen, Canada
“Approximately six years ago I was diagnosed with macular degeneration. I read in Health & Healing that certain nutrients can help with this condition, so I immediately began taking them. My eye doctor says I still have small spots on my retina but there has been little to no progression, and the small area of vision loss I once had disappeared. I am very thankful for my eyesight.” — Estelle Mayberry, Colorado
“Every year when I go in for my eye exams I am told, ‘You don’t show any change in your eyesight.’ Same glasses for five years in a row. At 82, how much better could it be?” — V.G., Arizona
- Reduce your risk of eye problems by controlling your blood sugar, blood pressure, and weight. If you have diabetes, it is particularly important to take steps to protect your vision.
- Look for N-acetyl-carnosine eye drops for cataracts and Mirtogenol for glaucoma and retinopathy online or in your health food store or order from the clinic by calling (800) 810-6655. Use as directed.
- Suggested daily doses of eye-nourishing nutrients are vitamin C 500 mg, vitamin E 400 IU, beta-carotene 15,000 IU, zinc 80 mg, lutein 15 mg, zeaxanthin 2 mg, bilberry 30 mg, and black currant 200 mg. You may need to combine a potent multivitamin with a vision-targeted formula to achieve these levels.
- Age-Related Eye Disease Study Research Group. A randomized, placebo-controlled, clinical trial of high-dose supplementation with vitamins C and E, beta carotene, and zinc for age-related macular degeneration and vision loss. Arch Ophthalmol. 2001 Oct;119(10):1417–1436.
- Li J, et al. Drug-induced ocular disorders. Drug Saf. 2008 Feb 1;31(2):127–141.
- Machan CM, et al. Age-related cataract is associated with type 2 diabetes and statin use. Optom Vis Sci. 2012 Aug;89(8):1165–1171.
- Steigerwalt RD, et al. Effects of Mirtogenol on ocular blood flow and intraocular hypertension in asymptomatic subjects. Mol Vis. 2008 Jul 10;14:1288–1292.
Modified from Health & Healing with permission from Healthy Directions, LLC. Photocopying, reproduction, or quotation strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher. To subscribe to Health & Healing, click here.