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Ocular Health

 

Ocular Health Introduction

Our eyes are complex, specialized organs which regulate a highly complicated process-the act of seeing. Many factors influence ocular health. These may include; age, nutrition, heredity, medications, toxins, health habits, sunlight exposure, head trauma, high blood pressure, kidney disease, diabetes, or direct trauma to the eye. Some eye disturbances are due to localized problems, such as common vision disorders like nearsightedness (myopia) or farsightedness (hypermetropia).

However, other eye disorders are often associated with underlying diseases elsewhere in the body. For example, yellowing of the eyes from jaundice may be a symptom of hepatitis or gallbladder disease, vascular retinopathy (retinal blood vessel disorder) can be a sign of diabetes and/or high blood pressure; red, swollen and/or watery eyes may indicate allergies.

Many common eye conditions are self-limiting and don’t threaten sight, such as styes (eyelid infection), conjunctivitis (pink or red eye), and blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelids), which are, primarily, caused by infections that are effectively erradicated with local antibiotics.

Some serious eye disorders such as glaucoma, cataracts, and macular degeneration are treatable. However, if left undiagnosed and untreated, these disorders can damage the eye and result in vision loss and blindness.

  • Acute and chronic glaucoma are characterized by an increase in the fluid pressure inside the eye. If this pressure is not treated it may harm the optic nerve, causing vision loss and blindness. In acute glaucoma, the fluid pressure inside the eyes rises rapidly causing pain and a red eye, which is considered a medical emergency requiring immediate treatment.
  • Cataracts, a loss of transparency in the lens of the eye, is a leading cause of vision loss and blindness. Senile cataracts, which typically affects people over the age of 65, is the most common form of cataracts. Senile cataracts are often caused by free radical damage that can be treated with nutritional supplementation and cataract surgery.
  • Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a progressive visual loss due to degeneration of the retinal macula, is a leading cause of severe visual loss in people over 55. AMD is caused by decreased blood and oxygen supply to the retina, and is often the result of other underlying disorders, such as atherosclerosis and high blood pressure. This condition can be treated with both nutritional supplementation and surgery.

Symptoms Associated with Ocular Health

Along with the signs of an underlying disorder, the following symptoms should be treated by a qualified health care professional:

  • changes in vision
  • eye pain or irritation
  • severe redness
  • eyelid infection
  • swelling and itching of the eyelids
  • eye injuries (trauma)
  • chemical exposure
  • foreign bodies in the eye
  • flashing lights
  • sudden appearance of many dark spots (floaters) in the field of vision

Acute glaucoma symptoms constitute a medical emergency, and may include:

  • intense eye pain
  • red eye
  • haloes appearing around lights
  • rapid deterioration of vision
  • bright light sensitivity

Ocular Health Symptoms

According to the National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health (1):

  • 2.2 million people in the United States have glaucoma, increasing to 3.3 million people by the year 2020
  • 1.8 million people in the United States have advanced age-related macular degeneration with another 7.3 million people at risk for substantial vision loss
  • 20.5 million people in the United States have cataracts, increasing to 30.1 million people by the year 2020
  • 4.1 million people in the United States have diabetic retinopathy, increasing to 7.2 million people by the year 2020
  • 3.3 million people in the United States, ages 40 and over, have blindness or vision loss, increasing to 5.5 million people by the year 2020

Ocular Health Treatment

Many eye problems are the direct result of underlying diseases elsewhere in the body. It is essential that the underlying disorder be identified through a complete diagnostic workup by a qualified health care professional, in order to render appropriate treatment.

Since chronic glaucoma often has no symptoms until late in the disease, all individuals should undergo regular tonometry tests and optic nerve evaluations to measure eye pressure. Early glaucoma detection and treatment may prevent permanent eye damage. Standard treatment options may include cholinergic eye drops to reduce the eye pressure, and/or surgery to drain the fluid in the eye.

Supplements helpful for Ocular Health

Antioxidants (Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Beta-carotene, Vitamin A) Vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene are potent antioxidants that help protect against free radical damage in the body and the effects of eye aging. Vitamin A and its precursor, beta-carotene, are important antioxidants, which are vital for normal vision. Vitamin A is equally essential for the photopigments responsible for night vision. Vitamin A supplementation may help prevent eye disorders caused by vitamin A deficiency including night blindness (nyctalopia). [2]

Cataract and macular degeneration patients are often deficient in antioxidants. Studies indicate that supplementation with vitamins C, E, and beta-carotene decreases cataract risk by more than 50 percent, and may help improve vision. [3, 5] Other studies show that supplementation with vitamins C, E, and beta-carotene helps protect against macular degeneration. [6, 7] Furthermore, supplementation with vitamin C may help reduce eye pressure in glaucoma patients. [8]

Bioflavonoids (bilberry) European bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) extract contains a potent bioflavonoid antioxidant, anthocyanosides (blue-red pigments contained in berries). Bilberry supplementation has been shown to increase blood flow to the eye, thereby leading to improvements in vision. Studies suggest that bilberry supplementation may help certain eye disorders including macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. [9, 10]

Zinc Zinc, a nutritional mineral, is often low in the elderly and plays an important role in retinal function. [11] One study shows that zinc supplementation may help improve vision loss in patients with age-related macular degeneration. [12] Since zinc also regulates the release of vitamin A, a zinc deficiency may also adversely affect vision by inhibiting the release of vitamin A and its related compounds.

Selenium and Glutathione Cataract patients have deficiencies in selenium and selenium-dependent glutathione peroxidase (GSH-PX), an important antioxidant enzyme. Lower levels of glutathione and selenium may contribute to the development and progression of cataracts. [13]

Carotenoids (Lutein, Zeaxanthin, and Lycopene) Lutein, zeaxanthin, and lycopene are carotenoid antioxidants found in the eye. These nutrients help protect against free radical damage in the eyes. [14, 15] In fact, certain studies have found that patients with low levels of lycopene are twice as likely to have age-related macular degeneration.[16] Another study found that eating a variety of carotenoid-containing foods helps protect against AMD. [17]

Grape seed extract Grape seed extract contains a potent bioflavonoid antioxidant, proanthocyanidins (PCO). Grape seed supplementation may help protect against free radical damage and enhance the absorption of vitamin C. [18] Grape seed extract supplementation may be extremely relevant for ocular health, as it has been shown to protect against AMD, improve poor night vision, and decrease one’s sensitivity to bright light (photophobia). [19]

Ginkgo biloba Ginkgo biloba extract contains the potent bioflavonoid antioxidant, ginkgo flavonglycosides. Supplementation with ginkgo biloba extract may help improve eye pressure in glaucoma patients and protect against AMD and retinopathy. [19]

Melatonin Melatonin, a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain, is also an antioxidant which offers free radical protection. Because of this property, melatonin supplementation may afford some protection against the formation of cataracts. [20]

Hachimijiogan Hachimijiogan, a Chinese formula containing 8 herbs, has been used to treat cataracts for centuries. Hachimijiogan supplementation may confer antioxidant protection in the eye and help protect against the formation of cataracts. [21]

Magnesium Magnesium, a nutritional mineral, may help improve eye pressure in glaucoma patients. One study showed that magnesium supplementation helped improve blood supply to the eyes and assisted with vision of glaucoma patients. [22]

Chromium Glaucoma patients are often low in the trace mineral, chromium. Low levels of this mineral are associated with high intraocular pressure and reduced focusing ability of the eyes. [23]

References

1. National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health

http://www.pdrhealth.com/drug_info/nmdrugprofiles/herbaldrugs/101840.shtml

2. Burton G et al. Beta-carotene: an unusual type of lipid antioxidant. Science 1984 (224): 569-73. 322

3. Robertson JM, et al. A possible role for vitamins C and E in cataract prevention. Am J Clin Nutr. Jan1991;53(1 Suppl):346S-351S.

4. Chylack LT, et al. The Roche European American Cataract Trial (REACT): A randomized clinical trial to investigate the efficacy of an oral antioxidant micronutrient mixture to slow progression of age-related cataract. Ophthalmic Epidemiol. Feb2002;9(1):49-80.

5. Ringvold A et al. Senile cataract and ascorbic acid loading. Acta Ophthalmol 1985(63): 172-6.

6. West S, et al. Are antioxidants or supplements protective for age-related macular degeneration? Arch Ophthalmol. Feb1994;112(2):222-7.

7. Richer S. Multicenter ophthalmic and nutritional age-related macular degeneration study, part 2: antioxidant intervention and conclusions. J Am Optom Assoc 1996 (67): 30-49.

8. Murray MT and Pizzorno JE, eds. Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, revised 2nd edition, CA: Prima Publishing, 1998: 486

9. Scharrer A et al. Anthocyanosides in the treatment of retinopathies. Klin Monatsbl Augenheikld 1981 (178): 386-9.

10. Hagerman A et al. The specificity of proanthocyanidin-protein interactions. J Biol Chem 1981 (256): 4494-7.

11. Murray MT and Pizzorno JE, eds. Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, revised 2nd edition, CA: Prima Publishing, 1998: 626

12. Stur M et al. Oral zinc and the second eye in age-related macular degeneration. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 1996 (37): 1225-35.

13. Karakucuk S et al. Selenium concentrations in serum, lens, and aqueous humor of patients with senile cataract. Arch Opthalmol Scand 1995 (73): 329-32

14. Landrum JT et al. A one year study of the macular pigment: the effect of 140 days of a lutein supplement. Exp Eye Res. 1997 Jul;65(1):57-62.

15. Schalch W. Carotenoids in the retina–a review of their possible role in preventing or limiting damage caused by light and oxygen. EXS. 1992;62:280-98.

16. Mares-Perlman JA et al. Serum antioxidants and age-related macular degeneration in a population-based case-control study. Arch Ophthalmol 1995 (113): 1518-23.

17. Seddon JM, et al. Dietary carotenoids, vitamins A, C, and E, and advanced age-related macular degeneration. Eye Disease Case-Control Study Group. JAMA. Nov1994;272(18):1413-20.

18. Maffei Facino R, et al. Procyanidines from Vitis vinifera seeds protect rabbit heart from ischemia/reperfusion injury: antioxidant intervention and/or iron and copper sequestering ability. Planta Med. 1996 Dec;62(6):495-502.

19. Murray MT and Pizzorno JE, eds. Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, revised 2nd edition, CA: Prima Publishing, 1998: 626

20. Reiter RJ et al. Oxygen radical detoxification processes during aging: the functional importance of melatonin. Aging Clinical Exp Res 1995 (7): 340-351.

21. Yoshida H. The effects of baweiwan (hachimijiogan) on plasma levels of high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol and lipoperoxide in aged individuals. Ann J Chin Med 1985 (13): 71-6.

22. Gaspar AZ et al. The influence of magnesium on visual field and peripheral vasospasm in glaucoma. Ophthalmologica 1995 (209): 11-3.

23. Murray MT and Pizzorno JE, eds. Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, revised 2nd edition, CA: Prima Publishing, 1998: 487

24. Miriam Stoppard, MD., Family Health Guide, (New York, NY: DK Publishing, 2002).

25. James F. Balch and Phyllis A. Balch, Prescription for Nutritional Healing, 3rd ed. (New York, NY: Penguin Putnam Avery, 2000).

Symptoms Associated with Ocular Health

Along with the signs of an underlying disorder, the following symptoms should be treated by a qualified health care professional:

  • changes in vision
  • eye pain or irritation
  • severe redness
  • eyelid infection
  • swelling and itching of the eyelids
  • eye injuries (trauma)
  • chemical exposure
  • foreign bodies in the eye
  • flashing lights
  • sudden appearance of many dark spots (floaters) in the field of vision

Acute glaucoma symptoms constitute a medical emergency, and may include:

  • intense eye pain
  • red eye
  • haloes appearing around lights
  • rapid deterioration of vision
  • bright light sensitivity

Ocular Health Symptoms

According to the National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health (1):

  • 2.2 million people in the United States have glaucoma, increasing to 3.3 million people by the year 2020
  • 1.8 million people in the United States have advanced age-related macular degeneration with another 7.3 million people at risk for substantial vision loss
  • 20.5 million people in the United States have cataracts, increasing to 30.1 million people by the year 2020
  • 4.1 million people in the United States have diabetic retinopathy, increasing to 7.2 million people by the year 2020
  • 3.3 million people in the United States, ages 40 and over, have blindness or vision loss, increasing to 5.5 million people by the year 2020

Ocular Health Treatment

Many eye problems are the direct result of underlying diseases elsewhere in the body. It is essential that the underlying disorder be identified through a complete diagnostic workup by a qualified health care professional, in order to render appropriate treatment.

Since chronic glaucoma often has no symptoms until late in the disease, all individuals should undergo regular tonometry tests and optic nerve evaluations to measure eye pressure. Early glaucoma detection and treatment may prevent permanent eye damage. Standard treatment options may include cholinergic eye drops to reduce the eye pressure, and/or surgery to drain the fluid in the eye.

Supplements helpful for Ocular Health

Antioxidants (Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Beta-carotene, Vitamin A) Vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene are potent antioxidants that help protect against free radical damage in the body and the effects of eye aging. Vitamin A and its precursor, beta-carotene, are important antioxidants, which are vital for normal vision. Vitamin A is equally essential for the photopigments responsible for night vision. Vitamin A supplementation may help prevent eye disorders caused by vitamin A deficiency including night blindness (nyctalopia). [2]

Cataract and macular degeneration patients are often deficient in antioxidants. Studies indicate that supplementation with vitamins C, E, and beta-carotene decreases cataract risk by more than 50 percent, and may help improve vision. [3, 5] Other studies show that supplementation with vitamins C, E, and beta-carotene helps protect against macular degeneration. [6, 7] Furthermore, supplementation with vitamin C may help reduce eye pressure in glaucoma patients. [8]

Bioflavonoids (bilberry) European bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) extract contains a potent bioflavonoid antioxidant, anthocyanosides (blue-red pigments contained in berries). Bilberry supplementation has been shown to increase blood flow to the eye, thereby leading to improvements in vision. Studies suggest that bilberry supplementation may help certain eye disorders including macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. [9, 10]

Zinc Zinc, a nutritional mineral, is often low in the elderly and plays an important role in retinal function. [11] One study shows that zinc supplementation may help improve vision loss in patients with age-related macular degeneration. [12] Since zinc also regulates the release of vitamin A, a zinc deficiency may also adversely affect vision by inhibiting the release of vitamin A and its related compounds.

Selenium and Glutathione Cataract patients have deficiencies in selenium and selenium-dependent glutathione peroxidase (GSH-PX), an important antioxidant enzyme. Lower levels of glutathione and selenium may contribute to the development and progression of cataracts. [13]

Carotenoids (Lutein, Zeaxanthin, and Lycopene) Lutein, zeaxanthin, and lycopene are carotenoid antioxidants found in the eye. These nutrients help protect against free radical damage in the eyes. [14, 15] In fact, certain studies have found that patients with low levels of lycopene are twice as likely to have age-related macular degeneration.[16] Another study found that eating a variety of carotenoid-containing foods helps protect against AMD. [17]

Grape seed extract Grape seed extract contains a potent bioflavonoid antioxidant, proanthocyanidins (PCO). Grape seed supplementation may help protect against free radical damage and enhance the absorption of vitamin C. [18] Grape seed extract supplementation may be extremely relevant for ocular health, as it has been shown to protect against AMD, improve poor night vision, and decrease one’s sensitivity to bright light (photophobia). [19]

Ginkgo biloba Ginkgo biloba extract contains the potent bioflavonoid antioxidant, ginkgo flavonglycosides. Supplementation with ginkgo biloba extract may help improve eye pressure in glaucoma patients and protect against AMD and retinopathy. [19]

Melatonin Melatonin, a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain, is also an antioxidant which offers free radical protection. Because of this property, melatonin supplementation may afford some protection against the formation of cataracts. [20]

Hachimijiogan Hachimijiogan, a Chinese formula containing 8 herbs, has been used to treat cataracts for centuries. Hachimijiogan supplementation may confer antioxidant protection in the eye and help protect against the formation of cataracts. [21]

Magnesium Magnesium, a nutritional mineral, may help improve eye pressure in glaucoma patients. One study showed that magnesium supplementation helped improve blood supply to the eyes and assisted with vision of glaucoma patients. [22]

Chromium Glaucoma patients are often low in the trace mineral, chromium. Low levels of this mineral are associated with high intraocular pressure and reduced focusing ability of the eyes. [23]

References

1. National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health

http://www.pdrhealth.com/drug_info/nmdrugprofiles/herbaldrugs/101840.shtml

2. Burton G et al. Beta-carotene: an unusual type of lipid antioxidant. Science 1984 (224): 569-73. 322

3. Robertson JM, et al. A possible role for vitamins C and E in cataract prevention. Am J Clin Nutr. Jan1991;53(1 Suppl):346S-351S.

4. Chylack LT, et al. The Roche European American Cataract Trial (REACT): A randomized clinical trial to investigate the efficacy of an oral antioxidant micronutrient mixture to slow progression of age-related cataract. Ophthalmic Epidemiol. Feb2002;9(1):49-80.

5. Ringvold A et al. Senile cataract and ascorbic acid loading. Acta Ophthalmol 1985(63): 172-6.

6. West S, et al. Are antioxidants or supplements protective for age-related macular degeneration? Arch Ophthalmol. Feb1994;112(2):222-7.

7. Richer S. Multicenter ophthalmic and nutritional age-related macular degeneration study, part 2: antioxidant intervention and conclusions. J Am Optom Assoc 1996 (67): 30-49.

8. Murray MT and Pizzorno JE, eds. Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, revised 2nd edition, CA: Prima Publishing, 1998: 486

9. Scharrer A et al. Anthocyanosides in the treatment of retinopathies. Klin Monatsbl Augenheikld 1981 (178): 386-9.

10. Hagerman A et al. The specificity of proanthocyanidin-protein interactions. J Biol Chem 1981 (256): 4494-7.

11. Murray MT and Pizzorno JE, eds. Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, revised 2nd edition, CA: Prima Publishing, 1998: 626

12. Stur M et al. Oral zinc and the second eye in age-related macular degeneration. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 1996 (37): 1225-35.

13. Karakucuk S et al. Selenium concentrations in serum, lens, and aqueous humor of patients with senile cataract. Arch Opthalmol Scand 1995 (73): 329-32

14. Landrum JT et al. A one year study of the macular pigment: the effect of 140 days of a lutein supplement. Exp Eye Res. 1997 Jul;65(1):57-62.

15. Schalch W. Carotenoids in the retina–a review of their possible role in preventing or limiting damage caused by light and oxygen. EXS. 1992;62:280-98.

16. Mares-Perlman JA et al. Serum antioxidants and age-related macular degeneration in a population-based case-control study. Arch Ophthalmol 1995 (113): 1518-23.

17. Seddon JM, et al. Dietary carotenoids, vitamins A, C, and E, and advanced age-related macular degeneration. Eye Disease Case-Control Study Group. JAMA. Nov1994;272(18):1413-20.

18. Maffei Facino R, et al. Procyanidines from Vitis vinifera seeds protect rabbit heart from ischemia/reperfusion injury: antioxidant intervention and/or iron and copper sequestering ability. Planta Med. 1996 Dec;62(6):495-502.

19. Murray MT and Pizzorno JE, eds. Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, revised 2nd edition, CA: Prima Publishing, 1998: 626

20. Reiter RJ et al. Oxygen radical detoxification processes during aging: the functional importance of melatonin. Aging Clinical Exp Res 1995 (7): 340-351.

21. Yoshida H. The effects of baweiwan (hachimijiogan) on plasma levels of high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol and lipoperoxide in aged individuals. Ann J Chin Med 1985 (13): 71-6.

22. Gaspar AZ et al. The influence of magnesium on visual field and peripheral vasospasm in glaucoma. Ophthalmologica 1995 (209): 11-3.

23. Murray MT and Pizzorno JE, eds. Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, revised 2nd edition, CA: Prima Publishing, 1998: 487

24. Miriam Stoppard, MD., Family Health Guide, (New York, NY: DK Publishing, 2002).

25. James F. Balch and Phyllis A. Balch, Prescription for Nutritional Healing, 3rd ed. (New York, NY: Penguin Putnam Avery, 2000).