Macular degeneration is an eye condition that affects the retina, the innermost eye tissue. It causes vision to deteriorate, progressing from slight changes in eyesight to full blindness. Some evidence suggests that certain supplements can help slow progression of the condition.

Macular degeneration is the most common cause of vision loss in developed countries, accounting for 8.7% of blindness globally. It is also the leading cause of vision loss in older adults. Currently, there is no cure, and treatments aim to reduce the speed at which macular degeneration progresses, to delay the effects on vision. Evidence suggests that nutritional supplements may help reduce the chances of developing macular degeneration.

In this article, we will discuss which supplements may help slow macular degeneration.

An image of supplements for macular degeneration.Share on Pinterest
Zeng Baoyan/EyeEm/Getty Images

Macular degeneration, or age-related macular degeneration, is a condition that affects over 10 million people in America. It is increasing in prevalence, and research suggests the condition will affect 288 million people worldwide by 2040. Macular degeneration affects the retina, which is the section of the eye that records what we see and sends the images to the brain.

There are two clinical forms of macular degeneration. These are: wet, or neovascular, and dry, or atrophic. Dry macular degeneration develops gradually and accounts for 85–90% of cases. Wet macular degeneration occurs when new blood vessels develop under the macula, which can cause blood and fluid to leak. This is the more serious type and can result in severe vision loss. The wet type also develops quicker.

Many people may consider dietary supplements to help prevent or slow the progression of macular degeneration. The National Eye Institute conducted the Age-Related Eye Disease Studies (AREDS and AREDS2) to investigate and evaluate the effects of vitamins on the progression of macular degeneration and other eye conditions. Evidence indicates that dietary supplementation with antioxidant vitamins and zinc may be beneficial.

The findings of these studies suggest that while no current treatments exist for early macular degeneration, supplementation may help stop further vision loss in more advanced cases. Supplements may be particularly beneficial for intermediate cases or for those who have late cases in one eye. The first AREDS study suggests that the following supplements may help to slow the progression of macular degeneration:

The AREDS2 study investigated modifications to the original supplement formula in people with macular degeneration who were at risk for advanced stages of the condition.

The results indicate that replacing beta carotene with other carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin may improve the combination. Carotenoids are a class of pigment that can benefit eye health. Other findings from AREDS2 suggest that omega-3 fatty acids do not provide any benefit for preventing macular degeneration.

In addition to the above supplements, other evidence also suggests the potential of vitamin A, selenium, and anthocyanins. Similar to carotenoids, anthocyanins are a class of pigment that may be beneficial for eye health.

Despite their natural origin, people should take nutritional supplements with caution. Adding nutrients such as vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals, through either diet or supplements, can help improve general health, as well as eye health. However, it is important to consult a doctor before making any drastic changes to the diet or taking supplements.

Some people may experience side effects from higher doses of certain supplements. For example, excessive consumption of vitamin A may result in toxicity. Symptoms can include dry skin, headaches, and blurred vision. Additionally, vitamin E toxicity is also possible, potentially resulting in increased bleeding, liver and gallbladder problems, and poor absorption of other nutrients.

Some evidence also suggests that supplementation with beta carotene can increase the risk of lung cancer in current and former smokers. Zinc toxicity may also cause a range of symptoms, including nausea, diarrhea, and headaches.

Currently, researchers are still unsure of the exact cause of macular degeneration. However, evidence highlights a number of potential risk factors for developing the condition. Those who are more likely to develop macular degeneration include:

As such, the National Eye Institute recommends the following tips to help lower risk or slow the progression of macular degeneration:

Macular degeneration is an eye condition that can cause people to experience blurry vision and progress to vision loss. It is a common condition that occurs following damage to the macula, which is part of the retina. The macula is the part of the eye that controls sharp, straight-ahead vision.

While there is currently no cure for macular degeneration, people can attempt to prevent or slow the progression of the condition by taking certain supplements, such as antioxidant vitamins and zinc. However, people should speak with a doctor before taking any supplements. Additionally, people can also follow other prevention tips, such as quitting smoking, getting regular exercise, and having a healthy diet.