AREDS and Supplements
Georgia Retina is committed to keeping you up-to-date on important retinal breakthroughs. A recent study, Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) has more clearly defined the value of vitamins and mineral supplements in preserving retinal health.
Doctors have long debated whether taking vitamin and/or mineral supplements could help prevent, treat, or cure certain eye conditions. Early scientific studies seemed to show that supplements had the potential to prevent or slow the progression of cataract and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), although more complete study was needed to answer some important questions:
- Which supplements are helpful for which condition(s)?
- Which patients will benefit from supplementation?
- What doses of supplements would benefit patients?
- What other effects might these supplements have on the body?
To learn more about the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) and schedule a visit with one of our ophthalmologists, call us toll-free at 888-GA-RETINA.
What is the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS)?
AREDS looked at the effects of zinc and antioxidants, and a combination of both, on patients with cataracts, and on those with varying stages and types of AMD. Scientists also studied patients without evidence of cataract or AMD to determine if zinc and/or antioxidants can prevent the development of these conditions. Some Georgia Retina patients volunteered to participate in the study.
What Were the Results?
The study showed a number of important things:
- High levels of antioxidants and zinc can reduce the risk of vision loss from advanced AMD by about 19%.
- These nutritional supplements do not prevent the initial development of AMD, nor do they improve vision already lost to AMD.
- Nutritional supplements do not seem to prevent cataracts or keep them from getting worse over time.
- 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. Some patients taking large doses of antioxidants experienced some yellowing of the skin. The long-term effects of taking large doses of these supplements are still unknown.
What Types of Nutritional Supplements Were Found to be Beneficial?
The formulation used in the study was:
- Vitamin C, 500 mg
- Vitamin E, 400 IU
- Beta-carotene, 15 mg (smokers and ex-smokers probably should not take beta-carotene, as some studies have shown a link between beta-carotene consumption and lung cancer among smokers)
- Zinc, 80 mg, as zinc oxide
- Copper, 2 mg, as cupric oxide (copper should be taken with zinc, because high-dose zinc is associated with copper deficiency, which can cause anemia)
What Should I Do?
If you have AMD and are taking some type of nutritional supplements, continue that regimen. We will inform you at your follow up visit if you should continue that exact regimen or whether you should make some small modification.
If you have AMD and are not taking nutritional supplements, but would like to, we will address that with you when you return for your retinal follow up visit.
Georgia Retina offers its own AREDS vitamin called Focus MaculaPro available for purchase at your appointment or call to our office. Other brands of eye vitamins are available over-the-counter at most pharmacies.
Do not worry if you have not been taking these supplements. Be aware that the beneficial effects of these supplements are small, and thought to occur only after taking the supplements for many years. If you delay starting them for several months, it is unlikely to be detrimental.
What About Lutein?
Lutein, the beneficial pigment found in green leafy vegetables (parsley, spinach, kale, greens) was not addressed in this study, but other studies have suggested beneficial effect. We encourage you to continue eating green leafy vegetables or take a lutein supplement. (If you are on Coumadin, speak to your medical doctor before eating green leafy vegetables.)
Other Ongoing Studies
Did you know that Georgia Retina is participating in a study to learn more about the genetics of AMD? To participate, you must have a brother or sister who has been diagnosed with AMD. Your sibling does not even need to be a patient of Georgia Retina, nor do they need to live in Georgia. Participants only need to be willing to provide a sample of their blood, allow their retinas to be photographed, and have an appropriate screening examination. If you want to participate, call your doctor and let them know. Georgia Retina is proud of the patients who volunteer for these studies now or in the future. Such contribution speeds up medical breakthroughs.
To learn more about the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) and schedule a visit with one of our retina specialists in Atlanta, call us toll-free at 888-GA-RETINA.