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Vitamin and Mineral Supplements for Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

 

The Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS), conducted by the U.S. National Eye Institute (NEI), found that supplementing your diet with high levels of vitamins C, E, and beta-carotene, called antioxidants , and the mineral zinc may help slow the progress of advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and delay vision loss if you already have moderate or severe AMD. There is no evidence that the supplements are helpful if you do not have AMD or only have a mild form of the disease. 1

  • The study showed the largest benefit for people who had already begun to develop AMD (intermediate AMD) in one or both eyes or who had advanced AMD in one eye. In these groups, the risk of developing advanced AMD or of developing AMD in the other eye was reduced by about 25%. The chance of developing vision loss from advanced AMD was reduced by about 20% in those taking the vitamins and zinc supplements.
  • Although there may be some benefit from taking the vitamins alone or the zinc alone, the greatest benefit was seen in those who took both.
  • The study did not find any significant benefit from the supplements in people who had only the early signs of AMD.
  • The study found that taking the supplements did not prevent the development of AMD and did not help improve vision already lost from AMD.

If you have intermediate AMD, or advanced AMD in one eye, talk to your doctor about whether you may benefit from vitamin and mineral supplements. Keep in mind that high doses of these supplements can cause problems. So follow your doctor's recommendations carefully.

  • Get vitamins from your diet. Eat lots of fresh fruits and dark green, leafy vegetables (such as spinach and collard greens).
  • High doses of zinc are linked to copper deficiency. If you take zinc, you may also need to take a copper supplement.
  • People who smoke or who used to smoke should not take beta-carotene. Studies have shown a higher incidence of lung cancer in people who smoke and take beta-carotene.
  • High doses of vitamin A may be linked to liver problems and bone fractures.
  • In women who have heart disease, high doses of vitamins C and E may make heart conditions worse.

 

Citations

  1. American Academy of Ophthalmology (2008). Age-Related Macular Degeneration (Preferred Practice Pattern ). San Francisco: American Academy of Ophthalmology. Available online: http://one.aao.org/CE/PracticeGuidelines/PPP.aspx.

 

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Steven T. Charles, MD - Ophthalmology
Last Revised July 20, 2011

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