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Insightful Vision Care

DaVinci Laboratories

Poets say, “The night has a thousand eyes.”Meanwhile, human beings are blessed with just two, and they’d better take care of them if they want to continue reading Kindles and seeing sunsets into their eighth and ninth decades.

On the cutting edge of technology, this may call for sophisticated surgical procedures like vitrectomy to repair damage to the retina.More common is LASIK, with its ability to help ease both near-and farsightedness.As for corrective lenses, they’ve become commonplace.

But these all address conditions that are already present, and they call for either invasive procedures or artificial devices to bring improvement.

By contrast, the goal of many natural practitioners is to support overall health and possibly head off problems before they occur. “We strive to treat the whole patient, addressing all aspects of needs including physical, emotional and social,” said Thomas R. Dandrea, DC, director and owner of the Monmouth Pain and Rehabilitation Center in Red Bank, NJ.

On its website, www.monmouthspine.com, the center states, “Our No. 1 objective is to provide pain management strategies that allow patients to rehabilitate without excessive drug use or unnecessary, traumatic surgery.” To achieve this, Dr. Dandrea and his colleagues employ a multi-disciplinary approach that offers chiropractic care, physical therapy and acupuncture.

“It’s not common for someone to come into Monmouth Pain and Rehabilitation specifically for vision problems,” the chiropractor noted. Nevertheless, he added, “We have seen many cases where patients have come to our office with pain in their neck and back, and, after chiropractic adjustments, notice other things have improved such as their vision.” 

Dr. Dandrea explained: “Every part of the body that is affected by the central nervous system can benefit from chiropractic biophysics (CBP), because spinal health directly affects the central nervous system. The nervous system controls every function of the body including vision. The optic nerve, which transmits visual information from the retina to the brain, is part of the central nervous system. When the practice of CBP is applied, the nervous system can perform at its highest capacity and therefore have positive effects on other aspects of the body such as vision.” 

In an article posted on www.acufinder.com, licensed acupuncturist Diane Joswick said, “Your eyes are a reflection of your overall health. Illnesses such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease can be revealed in the eyes.Conditions such as glaucoma, optic neuritis or vision loss are often associated with systemic health problems. It is this interconnection between your eyes and your health that acupuncture and Oriental medicine can tap into and utilize to treat eye and vision problems. Eye conditions respond well to acupuncture, and it has been used successfully to treat a wide range of eye problems for centuries.” 

Joswick identified several “powerful” acupuncture points around the eyes that promote healthy vision. “These points bring Qi and blood to the eyes to nourish the tissue and improve the condition of the eyes,” she said.

Joswick also offered the following general health tips: “Drink eight to 10 glasses of water a day to keep your body and eyes hydrated. Stop smoking. Exercise to improve overall circulation. Make a conscious effort to stop periodically to rest, and blink frequently especially when reading, working on a computer or watching television. Avoid rubbing your eyes. Always remember to protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful UV light and glare with protective lenses.” 


Flip the calendar back about 120 years, however, and you get a different view of shunning the sun.William Horatio Bates, a maverick eye specialist who still has devotees today, was a respected surgeon and an instructor of ophthalmology at the New York Postgraduate Medical School and Hospital from 1886 to 1891.When he became dissatisfied with conventional eye care practices of the day, he began his own research, espousing three major techniques: “palming” the eyes periodically, without pressure, to help them relax; “shifting,” or moving the eyes back and forth to get an illusion of objects “swinging” in the opposite direction; and—undoubtedly the most controversial—“ sunning,” which called for patients to expose the closed eyes to direct sunlight for at least three minutes a day to help refractive problems like nearsightedness and farsightedness, as well as for glaucoma, cataracts and macular degeneration.

Edward C. Kondrot, a board-certified ophthalmologist and homeopath, shared that “Dr.Bates was right about sunning.” Dr. Kondrot, who operates the Healing the Eye & Wellness Center in Dade City, FL, about 30 minutes north of Tampa, suggested that preconditioning with light protects the eye, stimulates healthy growth of key elements in the retina and increases antioxidant functioning. “This preconditioning might have a beneficial effect in the treatment and prevention of progressive damage in macular degeneration and other eye diseases,” he added.

Dr. Kondrot cited a 2008 study involving 193 patients with all forms of macular degeneration, including age-related macular degeneration (AMD). An infrared laser (780 nm) was used to irradiate a 3 mm spot on the conjunctiva near the macula of the eye. Each eye received a total of four 40-second light treatments twice a week over two weeks. “Visual acuity improved in more than 95 percent of the patients, and bleeding was reduced in 86 eyes with wet macular degeneration. In addition, metamorphopsia, impairment of color vision and scotomas decreased.” 

Dr. Kondrot also referenced a 2009 study in which shining infrared light on the sclera significantly reduced intraocular pressure in the majority of patients. “A 30-second treatment reduced IOP by 50 percent in some patients, others by less, and [in] some had no pressure-lowering effects. Patients with existing glaucoma all had a greater pressure lowering response compared to those who did not have glaucoma.”

According to the authors—B.T. Ivandic,N. N. Hoque and T.P. Ivandic—“This test might help to distinguish which normal tension patients and patients with slightly elevated pressures might be at risk to develop glaucoma.” 

Based on findings such as these, Dr.Kondrot concluded, “Light therapy in the form of sunning that was advocated by Dr. Bates a hundred years ago just might be a key to the prevention and treatment of macular degeneration.” 

Individual Nutritional Support 

A licensed optometrist for 32 years and a licensed acupuncturist for 16 years,Marc Grossman of New Paltz, NY, describes himself as an integrated practitioner who “diagnoses and treats eye conditions such as myopia, macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts, etc., not by treating the condition, but by treating the person behind the condition.”

He said he looks at the underlying patterns that might be causing the condition to develop, such as nutritional deficiencies, emotional causes (stress), blocked energy patterns and so on. Nutritional protocols, acupuncture and herbal treatments, lifestyle recommendations, chiropractic, osteopathic and cranial sacral treatments are among the modalities he employs. He also refers patients to other practitioners when that is indicated, including osteopaths, chiropractors, cranial sacral therapists, Alexander teachers, Feldenkrais practitioners, integrative medical doctors and naturopaths.

Dr. Grossman said, “I believe that health is a manifestation of balance, both within the body itself and between the body and the external environment. Our healthy vision depends on the health of the entire body, and therefore, when determining the best treatment for gaining eye health, we must look at all aspects of our life including the healthy relationship between our minds, bodies and spirits.” 

Dr. Grossman’s associate Michael Edson, MS, Lac, is the nutritional specialist in the optometrist’s practice.While regimens are tailored to each patient’s individual needs, Edson lays out some general guidelines for different eye health situations. For example, for macular degeneration he recommends the following: lutein, zeaxanthin, mesozeaxanthin,vitamins A and E, zinc, selenium, bilberry, omega-3 fatty acids, taurine, gingko biloba and B-complex.

“We used to recommend just lutein; now we know that zexanthin and mesozeaxanthin are just as or even more important” Dr. Grossman offered.

Patients with glaucoma may benefit from use of taurine, vitamin B12, alpha lipoic acid, magnesium, bilberry, gingko biloba, grapeseed extract, vitamin C, N-acetyl-cysteine and omega-3 fatty acids, said Edson.

For cataracts, the list of nutrients includes N-acetyl-carnosine (both in eye-drop form and capsules), cineraria homeopathic eye drops, glutathione (and its precursors), lutein, zeaxanthin and vitamins A, C and E.

Edson suggested omega-3 fatty acids, black currant seed oil, magnesium and vitamin A for dry eyes, and lutein, astaxanthin and black currant seed oil for computer eyestrain.

Looking ahead, Drs. Kondrot and Grossman both predict continued growth of natural strategies applied to eye care.

“People are becoming more interested in safe alternative methods without the side effects of drugs and surgery. Alternative eye care will have a more prominent role in the future and I am very excited to be a part of this,” said Dr. Kondrot.

Dr. Grossman added, “The time is right for an integrated medicine approach that brings the wisdom of the Eastern modalities together with the science of Western medicine. By treating vision conditions in this manner, we can increase our ability to help people regain and keep their precious gift of sight.” 

From the Supplement Shelf 

Because they support systemic health, dietary supplements are a good fit for natural practitioners who prefer to treat the whole person, not just a local symptom. Still, there are some supplements that may be specifically helpful to the eyes.

• Optique 1 from Pennsylvania-based Boiron USA is an all-in-one drop that combats irritation, redness and pain of eyestrain and fatigue. The company said it contains no vasoconstrictors or astringents; therefore there is no risk of a rebound effect or worsening of a condition. In fact, according to John Durkin, vice president of sales and marketing, “Because these eye drops are free of side effects and can be used by even the most sensitive individuals, Optique 1 is an excellent choice following cosmetic eyelid surgery, which can Cause the eyes to dry, itch or burn.”As with all Boiron homeopathic medicines, Optique 1 is regulated as an overthe- counter drug by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It is packaged in sterile individual doses and is sold in 10- and 20- dose units.

• Illinois-based Carlson Laboratories offers Able Eyes, formulated by ophthalmologist Robert Abel Jr.,MD, of Delaware Ophthalmology Consultants, with offices in Wilmington and Middletown, DE. The product contains both lutein and DHA in one easy-to-swallow soft gelatin capsule. Taken together, these nutrients have been found to increase macular pigment density greater than either alone. And according to the company, macular pigment density is associated with healthy retinas. Other products from the company include: Eye-Rite, providing bioflavonoids from cranberries, bilberries and citrus fruits, in addition to antioxidant vitamins C and E;Moistur-Eyes, intended to keep eyes moist and lubricated; and Right for the Macula, which provides 6 mg of lutein, 540 mcg of zeaxanthin, 400 mg of DHA (from fish oil), 80 mg of EPA (from fish oil) and 10 IU of vitamin E (as d-alpha tocopherol).

• Savesta LifeSciences Inc. in California markets SeeWell, a new product launched at Expo West 2012, to support healthy visual function and performance. The company’s science adviser, Kenneth Jones, president of Garden Bay Consulting in Halfmoon Bay, BC, Canada, cited eight human clinical studies showing that, taken daily, astaxanthin helps to support eyesight when the eyes are under strain. Jones said, “See Well supplies the same astaxanthin (AstaREAL) and dosage of 6 mg/day repeatedly verified to be effective in well-controlled human clinical trials.” Another key ingredient in SeeWell is an extract of blackcurrants with a concentration of anthocyanins that is greater than that of blueberries. Jones reported, “In a placebo-controlled trial, the focusing ability of fatigued eyes significantly improved in healthy adults required to remain awake for 24 hours who had taken 50 mg of blackcurrant extract in a period of eight hours compared to placebo.”

• Connecticut-based Vital Nutrients offers a number of professional- grade nutritional supplements, which have been demonstrated in clinical trials to help prevent or limit various eye disorders. These include: B-Complex, UltraPure Fish Oil DHA 500/EPA 125, UltraPure Fish Oil & CoEnzyme Q10, Acetyl Lcarnitine; Anti-Oxidant Caps, Grape Seed Extract, and Zinc (citrate). The company’s Beth Baldwin-Lien, ND, said that the B vitamins, fish oils, acetyl-L-carnitine and antioxidants have all been shown to have a salutary effect in connection with age-related macular degeneration.Grape seed extract, she said, contains flavonoid-rich oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs), which may help maintain capillary strength and help decrease eye stress from glare, thus improving night vision. In addition, Baldwin-Lien said,Vital Nutrients’ Blood Sugar Support product “contains a synergistic blend of eight nutrients and herbs which, through a variety of mechanisms, help to support optimal pancreatic function, insulin sensitivity and healthy blood sugar levels.” This is important, Baldwin-Lien stressed, because maintenance of normal blood sugar levels may help decrease the risk of developing diabetes and its associated serious eye disorders—diabetic retinopathy, cataract and glaucoma.

• Viteyes and product extensions such as Viteyes Omega-3 Enteric Coated,Viteyes Essentials (lutein and zeaxanthin) and two comprehensive multivitamins Viteyes Complete, and Viteyes Companion, are the leading eye health supplements available from South Dakota-based Vitamin Health, Inc. Noting that macular degeneration is the most common cause of permanent vision loss in Americans over age 60, Alison Gers, director of marketing, said, “Lutein and zeaxanthin, both carotenoids, are found to be highly concentrated in the macula.” Nevertheless, she said, about half of all Americans get just 1-2 mg of these essential nutrients each day from their diet—a fraction of the amount needed to replenish levels in the eye. Gers noted that the Viteyes line utilizes the famed AREDS (Age-Related Eye Disease Study) protocol, which is designed to assess the effects of oral supplementation of macular xanthophylls (lutein and zeaxanthin) and/or long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (docosahexaenoic acid- DHA and eicosapentaenoic acid-EPA) on the progression to advanced age-related macular degeneration.According to Gers, “This study concluded that long-term lutein intake may lower the risk of developing cataracts and macular degeneration.”

• Missouri-based ZeaVision’s Eyepromise line includes five different formulas for visual health featuring different blends of such ingredients as lutein, zeaxanthin, omega- 3 fatty acids and more. Company President Chris Barber said AMD “currently affects approximately 15 million people. Due to the aging Baby Boomer population, this figure is expected to double by 2020.While there is no cure for AMD, and its effects are irreversible, there are risks that can be mitigated in fighting the disease.” In particular, Barber noted, “Macular pigment is making big waves in the area of visual performance. Scientific research supports the assertion that thicker, more dense macular pigment can improve visual functions like photophobia (sensitivity to light), glare recovery (night driving) and contrast sensitivity, among many others.”

AMD currently affects approximately 15 million people. Due to the aging Baby Boomer population, this figure is expected to double by 2020. 

The optic nerve is part of the central nervous system. When the practice of CBP is applied, the nervous system can perform at its highest capacity and therefore have positive effects on other aspects of the body such as vision.

Several “powerful” acupuncture points around the eyes bring Qi and blood to the eyes to nourish the tissue and improve the condition of the eyes.

Patients with glaucoma may benefit from use of taurine, vitamin B12, alpha lipoic acid, magnesium, bilberry, gingko biloba, grapeseed extract, vitamin C, N-acetyl-cysteine and omega-3 fatty acids.


Boiron USA, (800) 264-7661, www.boiron.com 

Carlson Labs, (888) 234-5656, www.carlsonlabs.com 

Savesta LifeSciences Inc., (800) 994-2987, www.savestalife.com 

Vital Nutrients, (860) 638-3675, www.vitalnutrients.net 

Vitamin Health, Inc., (800) 890-3937, www.vitaminhealthbrands.com

ZeaVision, (866) 833-2800, www.eyepromise.com