Most people with macular degeneration do not need vitamins. Only certain individuals may gain a benefit from taking eye vitamins, but these are a particular subset of all patients with macular degeneration.
The famous AREDS Study (Age Related Eye Disease Study) was completed a few years ago and proved that certain antioxidants and zinc could reduce the chances of developing severe vision loss from macular degeneration.
The “AREDS Formula” includes antioxidants Vitamin C, E and Beta-Carotene, copper and zinc.
This formulation determined that ONLY those patients who exhibit medium to high risk characteristics of macular degeneration should take the vitamin.
In these select cases, only 25% of patients were protected from severe advancement of the disease.
That’s all it said.
The vitamins do not improve vision that is already lost.
Macular degeneration primarily destroys central vision in both the wet form and the dry form. Patients with the wet form of macular degeneration may benefit from intravitreal injections of anti-VEGF whereas there is no acceptable treatment for the dry form.
In either case, the retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) layer of the retina and photoreceptors are destroyed and taking the vitamins does NOT REVERSE this process.
A second study, Age Related Eye Disease Study 2 (AREDS2), is underway and will answer the following questions; 1) the value of taking lutein (never been proven to work!) 2) the role of omega-3 fatty acids in preventing ARMD and the potential efficacy of Beta-Carotene.
The study concludes in 2013-14.
What Does This Mean?
These eye vitamins are over-prescribed.
In most cases of macular degeneration, there is simply nothing to do…nothing.
Doctors are in the healing and helping business. Most who recommend the vitamins probably have no clear understanding of the AREDS study.
Many recommend vitamins unable to resist the inability to “treat.” After all, they are vitamins, right?
When I am referred patients to confirm the diagnosis of macular degeneration, many have already started vitamins. It is hard for me to contradict my colleagues, but in my opinion, it is my duty to practice “evidence based” medicine…choosing methods and medicines proven to work.
While there is plenty of circumstantial evidence regarding the value of vitamins, little proof actually exists, especially with regard to eye health and macular degeneration.
For now, there is simply no evidence that eye disease is altered by taking theses vitamins except for those with moderate to high risk macular degeneration.
Instead of asking your doctor about vitamins, you should confirm the diagnosis of macular degeneration, and if so, determine if you have moderate to high risk characteristics.