Modern living has created new vision challenges; here’s how to help.
The idea of losing one’s sight is one of the scariest prospects. One 2007 online forum queried college students about what one of the five senses would they give up—not one responded “sight.” It was a toss-up between taste and smell.
Another interesting informal forum was, “what one sense would you keep?” Sight was number one.
Sight is the dominant sense we consciously perceive as we are constantly “seeing” unless we’re sleeping.
Ophthalmologists generally diagnose the common disease states that occur, typically in early stages of an annual eye exam, and are generally considered eye diseases of aging. According to Robert Kachko ND, LAc, of InnerSource Health Manhattan, and on the Board of Directors of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP), they include macular degeneration, signified by the loss of rods and cones in the part of the eye that specializes in central focus and visual acuity. Glaucoma occurs when there is increased pressure in the eye, and cataracts, which results from changes in the proteins in the lens. This condition may be exacerbated by UV damage.
“The most common eye conditions will vary by age group, but overall the most common are nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism and presbyopia (farsightedness caused by loss of elasticity of the lens of the eye occuring typically in middle and old age),” he explained. “These are often the result in changes in the shape of the cornea, the eyeball or the lens with aging or for other reasons.”
Approximately 90 million Americans have two or more symptoms related to issues of the ocular surface, noted Monique Wellise, manager of education and professional sales for California-based Nordic Naturals, who believes that the most common eye/vision concerns are dry eye syndrome, blepharitis, meibomian gland dysfunction and conjunctivitis (pinkeye). “However,” she warned, “Meibomian gland and dry eye complaints are expected to dramatically increase in the near future due to three risk factors—age, diabetes and use of digital devices.”
Peter Pham, MD, CEO of Texas-based Zocular, related, “The eyes are one of the most used and indispensable organs in the human body, and it’s not uncommon for typical problems to occur with them.” Among those, he pointed out, are dry eyes, which affect tens of millions in the U.S. alone, and five million of Americans 50 and older, according to National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Dr. Pham further explained that the most common symptoms associated with dry eyes are redness, burning, watering and grittiness. Despite the name “dry” eyes, almost all cases of dry eyes are not due to a lack of tears, he emphasized. “It’s the clogging of the eyelid oil gland (meibomian glands) along the eyelid margin that leads to the inflammation, which causes the symptoms. The watering due to dry eyes is actually a protective mechanism to ‘dilute’ the inflammation originating from the eyelid margins.” Meanwhile, less than 15 percent of dry eye cases are caused by aqueous deficiency often incurred by an underlying systemic disease such as Sjogren’s syndrome, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or from certain medication use.
The disease mechanism for dry eyes is very similar to acne, he added. However, conventional treatment for acne cannot be used for dry eyes due to their toxicity. “Some acne drugs such as isotretinoin can actually cause severe dry eyes by causing apoptosis of the meibomian glands along the eyelids. While apoptosis of facial oil glands can lead to improvements in acne, it can precipitate severe secondary dry eyes as well,” he cautioned.
Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, sees an emerging vision problem that ties in with dry eye. “There is a newly minted eye condition, computer vision syndrome, which occurs from continually viewing video monitors, whether these are computers, TVs, smart phones, and/or other tablets or pads. This is characterized by two conditions, dry eye and physical upper body strain. People tend not to blink as frequently when looking at a computer screen or video monitor. In addition, back, shoulder and neck strain and headaches will exacerbate this condition,” he explained.
Dr. Kachko agreed, noting that the increased number of devise usage (multiple devices) keeps us more connected than ever and always “on.” Therefore, eyes rarely get a break. “This is especially dangerous when device usage is right before bed or first thing in the morning when our eyes haven’t yet adjusted to light. It’s important for our eyes to take in just the right amount of light, which is why our pupils constrict when entering a bright room. Having these devices around all of the time, very close to our faces, is a big risk. Especially because the main light emitted is blue on the wavelength spectrum, which increases the activity of active beta brain waves and reduces our own production of melatonin, the essential sleep hormone.”
Answers to simple questions about how your patient or client may experience sleep disruptions, gritty feel in the eyes, eye fatigue, can certainly help you recommend the most appropriate supplements. However, if you suspect a patient or client has any refraction issues, Dr. Kachko advised recommending patients to someone trained in assessing eye movements. A behavioral optometrist is trained to do so and also prescribes eye exercises that may help.
According to Wellise, the human eye, specifically the retina, is highly dependent on sufficient amounts of essential fatty acids in order to maintain healthy function. Nordic Naturals specializes in omega-3 nutrition, and offers ProOmega 2000 and ProDHA Eye specifically for eye and vision support.
“When healthy tear production is a key objective, our practitioners tend to see results with 2,000 mg of combined triglyceride form EPA and DHA daily,” she commented. Nordic Naturals’ ProOmega 2000 provides 1,125 mg EPA and 875 mg DHA in two soft gels, making compliance attainable. An EPA-dominant formula, ProOmega 2000 is a daily supplement for correcting the fatty acid imbalance that may be at the root of many common eye complaints.
“When long-term macula health is a key objective, ProDHA Eye is an ideal foundational daily supplement,” Wellise said. “The omega-3 DHA is a key structural fat in eye tissue and a precursor to neuroprotectin D1, which plays a key role in the protection of retinal pigment epithelial cells. ProDHA Eye is a synergistic blend which features a high DHA:EPA ratio along with research-backed levels of lutein and zeaxanthin. Two soft gels deliver 845 mg DHA, 360 mg EPA, 20 mg FloraGlo lutein and 4 mg zeaxanthin.”
Dr. Teitelbaum also highly recommends essential fatty acids (EFAs); for those with dry eyes and those who constantly viewing flat screen monitors, he recommends taking optimal levels of omega-7 and omega-3 oils. Omega 7 EFAs are especially critical, he noted, and can be found in sea buckthorn oil. “But unless the proper parts of the plant are used (most often they are not), they do not work,” he cautioned. Numerous studies show that using optimal levels of omega-7 oils improve body moisture in general. This includes dry eyes, dry mouth, dry skin, intestinal linings and even vaginal dryness. “The form that I use is called ProHydra-7 (by EuroMedica)”. Dr. Teitelbaum noted that he gives two twice a day for two months to see the full effect, and then the dose can often be lowered to one or two a day as needed. “In addition, an omega-3 called EurOmega 3 supplies the amount of omega-3s found in eight regular fish oil capsules in just one pill, and is the one that I use. So this combination works brilliantly for dry eyes and mouth from any cause, including computer vision syndrome.”
Zocular, explained Dr. Pham, was developed to address the source of dry eyes and by extension, acne. By using a proprietary and patent-pending okra-based formulation that contains the essential vitamins, antioxidants and polysaccharides that have been shown to target inflammation, “Zocular represents a revolutionary new approach for a wide variety of conditions that is associated with inflammation. Zocular products employ natural botanicals to produce effective and dramatic results without resorting to conventional drugs like antibiotics, benzoyl peroxide, steroids or retinoid derivatives. This allows Zocular products to be used on almost any bodily surface, including the eyes, without producing the unwanted redness, dryness, burning or irritation associated with conventional treatments for acne and dry eyes.”
The company’s ZocuWipe pads are specifically formulated for the eyes to produce immediate and long-lasting dry eye symptom relief with just one application per day, according to Dr. Pham. The Zocular formulation in ZocuWipe, he added, is also effective against Demodex mites, which can cause significant irritation and dry eye symptoms.
Dr. Kachko recommended patients and clients need to eat an antioxidant-rich diet, concentrate on a varied-color diet every day; leafy greens in high amounts, something red, something orange or yellow, something blue or purple. “People who don’t tend to get enough antioxidants from their food have a higher risk of developing cataracts, while those who eat lots of green leafy vegetables high in carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin tend to have lower risk,” he stated. He also recommended vitamins C and E, which can help to prevent the type of damage that occurs in either the lens (cataracts) or the retina (macular degeneration). Those with low levels of beta carotene (vitamin A) also have higher risk of developing several eye diseases.
Additionally, zinc, an essential mineral, is involved in activity of enzymes essential for eye function, and occurs in higher concentration in the eye than most other body tissues. In one study, 151 patients with early stages of atrophic macular degeneration received zinc (sulfate) or placebo, and after one and two years those who took zinc had less visual loss than those who took placebo,” he reported.
Other activities that may help include purposefully breaking away from staring at a monitor for too long; look at something three-dimensional. Read actual books or magazines instead of an iPad or Kindle type device. Take power naps—little 15-minute rests with eyes closed and deep breathing. Drink water throughout the day.
These little tricks plus the nutrients mentioned will certainly help promote eye and vision health.
For More Information:
Nordic Naturals, www.nordicnaturals.com