Can Vitamin E Protect Against Age-Related Macular Degeneration?

It’s common knowledge that a person’s vision will likely deteriorate with age. For many people, a simple pair of reading glasses or prescription glasses is enough to counteract vision loss as they age. But for those with age-related macular degeneration, the solution isn’t quite as clear-cut.

This serious eye disease affects up to one-third of adults over the age of 75, and it has a big impact on a person’s overall quality of life. Read on to learn more about the specifics of this disease and how Vitamin E, as well as other anti-inflammatory nutrients, may affect its onset and severity.

What is age-related macular degeneration?

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), is an eye disease that, as the name suggests, can occur as you age. In fact, it’s the leading cause of vision loss in older adults. As the natural process of aging damages the macula—the part of the eye that controls sharp, straight-ahead vision—the disease can blur your vision.

While AMD doesn’t result in complete blindness, losing your central vision can have a major impact on your lifestyle. It can make it more difficult to read, drive and even see faces, and it’s often exacerbated by other age-related physiological degeneration. Even in extremely healthy seniors, AMD still means losing the power of one of your most important senses. 

The stages of age-related macular degeneration

The onset of AMD is different for everyone—it can progress very slowly in some people and much faster in others. You may have early-stage AMD and not even notice a change in your vision for a long time, which is why regular eye exams are important. They help you catch AMD early, so that a treatment plan can be established.

The progression of the disease also depends on which type of AMD you have—either dry AMD or wet AMD. Dry AMD, the more common of the two conditions, progresses as follows:

  • Early dry AMD: In the first stage, you’ll likely see or experience no symptoms.
  • Intermediate dry AMD: While some people may have no symptoms during this stage, others may notice mild blurriness in central vision or reduced vision in low-light conditions.
  • Late dry AMD: During the late stage of dry AMD (as well as wet AMD), you may notice straight lines start to look wavy. You’ll likely also notice some blurriness at the center of your vision which may get worse over time. Be on the lookout for any changes in color, too, as AMD causes colors to appear less bright.

Keep in mind that dry AMD can turn into wet AMD at any time. The symptoms of wet AMD mirror those of dry AMD. You need to reach out to your doctor right away if you’re exhibiting any of the late-stage symptoms.

A vitamin cocktail may help slow degeneration

If you’re diagnosed with AMD, a doctor will propose a treatment plan based on the stage and type you have. There’s no current treatment plan for early-stage AMD other than cessation of smoking (if you’re a smoker), so your doctor will likely monitor the progression of the disease with frequent checkups. In some cases, a regimen of dietary supplements can help, particularly those that feature Vitamin E.

Studies have shown that Vitamin E alone isn’t an effective way to prevent the development or progression of early-stage AMD, but can help slow degeneration when taken in tandem with other nutrients, particularly anti-inflammatories.

Research suggests that supplementation with high doses of antioxidant vitamins, particularly C and E, beta-carotene and zinc, may slow the progression of AMD. The study explains that “the AREDS trial found that supplementation with Vitamin C, Vitamin E, zinc, and beta-carotene slows the progression of disease in patients with ARMD.” Participants in the study showed a mild reduction in the progression of AMD after taking the vitamin regimen.

Researchers stressed that high doses of these nutrients, especially Vitamin E and beta-carotene, can actually do more harm than good if taken at the wrong level, which is why seniors with AMD who are interested in supplementing with a vitamin cocktail should always refer to a doctor’s instructions to ensure appropriate intake.

Well-rounded vitamin intake is important

No matter your age, proper vitamin intake is crucial for your overall health, especially the health of your vision. If you’re noticing changes in your vision, talk to your doctor right away. While supplementing with Vitamin E, or any other vitamin for that matter, may not completely prevent the onset of disease like AMD, research is promising as to the benefits of adequate vitamin intake as part of a healthy lifestyle.

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