Nutrition plays a very important role in the health of the entire eye. From the front of the eye to the back, various nutrients affect the comfort of the eye and caliber of the vision. Starting with ocular surface, the quality of the tear film can have a major effect on one’s vision.

People with significant dry eye syndrome, which causes the surface epithelial layer to break down, may have their vision markedly reduced. Also, they may suffer from burning and gritty sensations. The omega 3 oils, fish oil capsules, flax seed gel caps, red krill oil capsules and eating fatty fish such as Salmon, Tuna, Mackerel and Cod can be very helpful as a part of the treatment for this type of problem.  Another problem helped by fish oil type products that occurs in the front of the eye is the posterior form of Blepharitis, which involves the oil glands of the eyelid. The composition of the lipid secretions is biochemically improved by these fish oil type products. Overall, the tear film, subsequently, will provide a more consistently smooth layer over the cornea and improve vision and the comfort of the eye.

Moving further into the eye is the crystalline lens that begins to develop cataract changes as we age. Studies have shown that people with reduced levels of vitamin C and vitamin E have a higher incidence of cataract formation. Lycopene, a carotinoid type phytonutrient, has, recently been shown to help protect against cataract formation. Lycopene is found in tomatoes and tomato based products.

At the back of the eye is the retina and, more importantly, the macula, which is a very small area near the center of the retina that is responsible for sharp, clear vision. As most people now know, macular degeneration, as it becomes more advanced can destroy your useful, sharp central vision.

Lutein and Zeaxanthine, two additional carotenoid phytonutrients, which concentrate in the macular area help to protect the macula by reducing free radical formation, which is caused by a process known as oxidative stress that is, partially, initiated by UV light. These free radical lead to breakdown of the cells in the macular area.  Initially, as the macular area deteriorates, the dry form occurs. However, over time, the dry form, as it progresses can, suddenly, leak fluid or bleed and become the more dreaded wet form.  Lutein and Zeaxanthine are the protective nutrients for the macula. They are found in the dark leafy green vegetables, especially, in spinach, kale and collard greens. Zeaxanthine is, also found in corn and other yellow vegetables and egg yolks.  A study reported in the Journal of the American Medial Association in 1994 first reported on the benefits of the dark leafy green vegetables and identified Lutein and Zeaxanthine as the likely reason for that protection. Another study called the Age Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS 1) showed that specific doses of Beta Carotene (another carotenoid nutrient), vitamin C and E and Zinc could reduce the risk of the second eye developing the wet form by 25% if the first eye went bad and moderate dry Macular degeneration. AREDS II is now taking place and includes Lutein, Zeaxanthine, and fish oil capsules. Thus, fish oil seems to play a role in a macular health in addition to ocular surface health and, even, general body health including heart health. Lycopene, which was, previously, mentioned, may, also, be protective to macula.

As a final point, please protect yourself from ultraviolet light, which can deleteriously affect the ocular surface, lens, and macula. UV block sunglasses provide that protection. In addition, do not smoke since smoking has been proven to irritate the ocular surface, increase cataract formation, and increase the risk of macular degeneration.