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The Best Foods for Your Eyes

We all know that eating nutrient-rich foods, drinking plenty of water, and exercising can boost our health. So it’s no surprise that these same activities also support eye health. Research has shown that regularly consuming certain vitamins and nutrients can actually prevent or delay sight-threatening eye conditions and diseases such as macular degeneration, cataracts, and glaucoma. 

Here’s a list of the best vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that can help keep your eyes healthy for a lifetime. 

We invite you to consult with our eye doctor, Dr. Steven Rosen, to discuss which nutrients are most suited to your specific eye health and needs. 

Vitamins and Nutrients That Support Eye Health

*Always best to speak with your primary care doctor before taking any vitamins or supplements, and to ensure you consume the correct dosage for your body.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A deficiency can cause a host of eye health issues, including dry eyes and night blindness. In fact, vitamin A deficiency is a leading cause of blindness worldwide.

Vitamins A and A1, which are essential for supporting the eye’s photoreceptors (the light-sensing cells) in the retina, can be found in foods like carrots, leafy greens, egg yolks, liver, and fish. 

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Eating Omega-3 rich foods like fatty fish can support eye health in a few ways. DHA and EPA, 2 different types of Omega-3 fatty acids, have been shown to improve retinal function and visual development.  

Omega-3 supplements can also ease dry eye symptoms. A randomized controlled study found that people who consumed Omega-3 supplements experienced improved tear quality, which resulted in reduced tear evaporation and increased eye comfort.  

Lutein and Zeaxanthin

Lutein and zeaxanthin are antioxidants that accumulate in the lens and retina and help filter out damaging UV rays and blue light. One study showed that individuals who had the highest levels of these nutrients in their diets had a 43% lower chance of developing macular degeneration than those who had consumed the least amount.  

Spinach, egg yolks, sweet corn, and red grapes are some of the foods that contain high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin. 

Vitamin C 

High amounts of vitamin C can be found in the aqueous humor of the eye, the liquid that fills the eye’s anterior chamber and supports corneal integrity. This has prompted scientists to consider this vitamin’s role in protecting eye health. 

Research suggests that regularly taking vitamin C (along with other essential vitamins and minerals) can lower the risk of developing cataracts, and slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration and visual acuity loss.

While vitamin C appears to support eye health in a variety of ways, it’s still unclear whether taking this supplement benefits those who aren’t deficient. Vitamin C can be found in various fruits and vegetables, like bell peppers, tomatoes, citrus fruits, broccoli, and kale. 

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps protect fatty acids from becoming oxidized. Because the retina has a high concentration of fatty acids, sufficient vitamin E intake is crucial for optimal ocular health. 

Vitamin E can be found in almonds, flaxseed oil, and sunflower seeds. 

Zinc

Healthy eyes naturally contain high levels of zinc. A zinc deficiency can cause night blindness, and thus increasing zinc intake can improve night vision. Zinc also helps absorb Vitamin A, an essential antioxidant. 

Make sure to avoid taking high doses of zinc (beyond 100 mg daily) without first consulting your eye doctor. Higher doses of zinc have been associated with side effects such as reduced immune function. You can increase your zinc intake naturally by consuming more oysters, meat, and peanuts. 

Phytochemical Antioxidants

Phytochemical antioxidants are chemicals produced by plants that contain several health benefits. Some studies show that these plant-based chemicals may enhance vision and eye health as well as prevent age-related eye diseases and complications by alleviating ocular oxidative stress. Oxidative stress within the eyes contributes to several eye conditions, including  dry eye syndrome. Consuming more produce with these antioxidants can help balance the anti-oxidant and pro-oxidant system, resulting in healthier eyes. 

Personalized Eye Nutrition 

If you or someone you know is looking for ways to boost or maintain eye health, speak with an optometrist near you about what supplements and vitamins are best for you. For an eye doctor in St. Louis, give us a call at 314-843-2020.

 

Your Eyes Are the Windows to Your Health

Your eyes aren’t just the windows to your soul — they can also reveal valuable information about your general health beyond whether you need glasses, including: diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer. It is not unusual for people to come in for an eye exam just to check their eyesight and then have certain health issues or predispositions picked up by the optometrist. 

Eye Exams and Your Health

Eye examinations can help doctors detect general health conditions early enough to intervene. Advanced screenings enable eye doctors to better predict cardiovascular incidents like stroke, and possibly detect signs of mental changes such as Alzheimer’s. Read below to learn how eye exams can unveil a whole lot more than just eye health.

Brain Cancer & Stroke

Because of the similarities between the blood vessels in the eye and brain, an eye doctor can occasionally detect an issue taking place in the brain by examining the blood vessels in the eyes. If swelling or shadows in the eye is observed, it may indicate a serious condition in the brain, like a tumor, or clots that might result in a stroke.

Diabetes

Diabetes can cause damage to the blood vessels in the retina at the back of the eye, resulting in Diabetic Retinopathy (DR) and Diabetic Macular Edema (DME). If an optometrist detects leaky blood vessels in the eye, the patient would be advised to see a doctor to help control their blood sugar. Changes are gradual, and they start before visual symptoms are noticed. The earlier diabetic eye disease is managed, the better the chances are of preserving eyesight. 

Hypertension

High blood pressure, characterized by having too much pressure in the blood vessels, can be detected during an eye exam, sometimes even before it’s diagnosed by your regular doctor. The damaged blood vessels lead to swelling, hemorrhages, and leaking — all of which can be observed in the eyes. According to the CDC, hypertension “the silent killer” affects nearly 1 in 3 adults, and up to a whopping 20% of those don’t even know they have it. So early detection at an eye doctor’s evaluation can be truly life-saving.

High Cholesterol 

Eye exams can also detect a buildup of cholesterol. High cholesterol is among the easiest conditions to spot during a complete eye exam, as the cholesterol deposits manifest on the front of the eye, appearing as a thin, gray rim around the cornea. It can also be detected in the retina by assessing artery and vein patterns.

These deposits may indicate the current or future development of Retinal Blood Vessel Occlusion, a condition where blockages restrict blood flow to the back of the eye, causing temporary or permanent vision loss. 

Heart Conditions

In some cases, heart conditions associated with a buildup of plaque in the carotid artery in the heart can also lead to deposits that clog the ocular arteries in the eye. If an optometrist detects such changes to the vascular structure at the back of the eye, he or she will typically recommend going to a specialist.

Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Sudden vision loss may be attributed to Multiple Sclerosis (MS). While the optometrist can recognize signs indicating the presence of MS, such as the color and appearance of the optic nerve, such cases will be referred for further testing to confirm the diagnosis.

Thyroid

Thyroid disease can make itself apparent through the eyes in several ways. The thyroid gland controls the hormones that regulate tear production so some thyroid disorders can cause dry eye disease. Additionally, overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) can make the extraocular muscles enlarge and stiffen, causing bulging eyes — an indicator of Graves’ disease. 

Inflammation

Systemic conditions that are associated with inflammation in the body can have an inflammatory effect on the eyes. Uveitis, for example, causes eye inflammation, redness, and blurred vision, and tends to occur in people with lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and other autoimmune diseases. 

Cancer

Breast cancer, leukemia, and other metastatic cancers are occasionally discovered during an eye evaluation. In addition to brain cancer mentioned above, melanoma and basal cell carcinoma (skin cancer) can be detected, and eye doctors can also diagnose lymphoma and other eye tumors. Eye exams save lives.

What the Future Holds 

Alzheimer’s 

Recent studies show that a non-invasive and precise imaging device called Octa (optical coherence tomography angiography) can signal the presence of eye changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Because the retina is in many ways an extension of the brain, the altered blood vessels at the back of the eye offer a glimpse into the changes taking place within the brain.

Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s Disease can often be misdiagnosed as its early symptoms are characteristic of other conditions. Research has shown that subtle eye tremors, an early Parkinson’s marker, could be detectable using advanced eye exam technology. One day soon, practitioners may send patients to an eye doctor to test for this and other diseases.

Your Eye Doctor’s Appointment Could Change Your Life

So the next time you visit Dr Ernst at Rosen Optometry in St. Louis, remember that a comprehensive eye exam can do more than determine your eyeglasses or contacts prescription. Dr. Ernst can evaluate your eyes for existing or potential health issues, and communicate them to your primary care physician for the best possible care. By knowing that you’re at risk for a certain disease, you can take precautions early on and manage the condition as needed. After all, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

DRY EYE SYNDROME

Tears are essential for healthy eyes and vision.

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What is Dry Eye Syndrome?

Dry Eye Syndrome, or DES, is a condition caused by a lack of naturally producing tears. Tears are an essential aspect of eye health because they lubricate the surface of the eyes, keeping them moist and comfortable. When the body is unable to produce an adequate amount of tears, the eyes can begin to dry out, leading to itchy, red, and painful eyes.

At Rosen Optometry, we are leaders in treatments for Dry Eye Syndrome patients in St. Louis, Missouri. If you or a loved one suffers from DES, speak with Dr. Steven Rosen and schedule a consultation to learn how we can help.

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What are common symptoms of dry eye?

The most frequent types of Dry Eye symptoms include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Burning sensation
  • Gritty feeling
  • Itchy eyes
  • Redness
  • Stinging
  • Soreness
  • Watery eyes

It may seem ironic, but one symptom of DES is watery eyes. This occurs when the body attempts to self-soothe the dryness by producing excessive tears, a condition known as Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS). The tears lack a sufficient amount of water, so although these tears may provide temporary relief, the excessiveness of the tear production isn’t healthy.

What are tears made of?

Tears are more than just fluid in the eye; they have a chemical makeup comprised of water, enzymes, proteins, metabolites, lipids, and mucins.

Tears are important because they keep your eyes well-lubricated and protect them from foreign bodies or dust particles, which can cause irritation. When an insufficient amount of tears is produced in the tear ducts, Dry Eye Syndrome occurs.

What are tear elements and why are they important?

  • Enzymes are proteins that cause a chemical reaction inside the body
  • Proteins are molecules containing amino acids that are found in tissues in the body
  • Metabolites are small molecules that are related to metabolism
  • Lipids are molecules with an oily substance which contain healthy fats
  • Mucins are glycoproteins that helps cells stick together
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Who Is at Risk for Developing Dry Eyes?

Like other diseases and eye conditions, there are some people who are more susceptible to developing DES. Age, gender, medical conditions, even the environment can contribute to sensitivity to dry eyes.

Certain Medical Conditions Make Dry Eye Syndrome More Prevalent.

Patients with any of the following diseases may notice signs of DES symptoms:

  • Arthritis, an inflammation of the joints
  • Blepharitis, an inflammation of the eyelid, usually caused by skin conditions such as dandruff or rosacea
  • Diabetes, a condition causing high blood glucose levels
  • Glaucoma, a disease of the optic nerve, which causes vision loss
  • Hypertension, high blood pressure in the arteries
  • Lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease that causes damage to healthy tissue
  • Thyroid Disorder, when the tissues that surround the eyes become swollen or inflamed
  • Vitamin A Deficiency, when there is an insufficient amount of Vitamin A, which normally helps protect the cornea

Environmental Factors

People who live in areas with heavy winds or with dusty or dry air may find that their eyes often feel dry. Being around smoke or hair dryers can cause the same reaction. Being in direct aim of a heater or air conditioning unit can also dry out the eyes.


Does Gender Impact Dry Eye?

Women are more prone to DES because of hormonal changes due to pregnancy, birth control, and menopause. Women over age 50 have a 50% greater risk of developing Dry Eye than men of the same age. Additionally, women tend to visit their doctor more often than men and at earlier stages of discomfort, so diagnosing the condition in women is more common.

How Does Age Affect Dry Eye?

According to the National Eye Institute, the risk of experiencing DES goes up with age. That’s because the natural tears of the eye decrease over time, which is a natural part of aging. As the patient’s tear production diminishes, signs of Dry Eye increase.

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Medications and Dry Eye

All medications include warnings of possible side effects which some patients may experience. There are certain categories of medications that are known to decrease natural tear production, such as:

  • Antidepressants
  • Antihistamines
  • Anxiety medications
  • Birth control pills
  • Blood pressure medication
  • Decongestants

If you are taking any of these medications and feeling any signs of Dry Eye, speak with Dr. Steven Rosen about some alternative medications or treatments to alleviate your symptoms. (Do not change prescription medications or dose without speaking to a doctor).

Treatment for Dry Eye Syndrome

Dr. Steven Rosen treats patients from all over St. Louis who have Dry Eye. Our staff has the experience and knowledge needed to help give you relief from DES symptoms and improve your quality of life.

Depending on your specific case, we may recommend artificial tears or lubricant eye drops to produce tears to moisten and make your eyes feel more comfortable. Prescription drops can help stimulate tear production and, in some cases, steroids can provide significant short-term relief.

For patients with more severe DES, the doctor may suggest the use of punctal plugs. These tiny devices are placed inside the tear duct to block tears from draining. As the natural moisture is prevented from leaking out, it remains in the eye and coats it properly, keeping it lubricated and comfortable.

Scleral lenses can provide effective relief, as well. These are custom-designed rigid contact lenses with a large diameter that cover the entire sclera (the white part of the eye) without touching the cornea. Scleral lenses contain a tiny pool of water, providing constant moisture to dry eyes.

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Short-Term Effects of Dry Eyes

Many symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome last for the short term, meaning, they can fade with proper treatment or sometimes, on their own. Blurry vision, itchy or red eyes, and stinging can be treated effectively and most likely will eventually disappear.

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Long-Term Effects of Dry Eyes

Some symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome have long-term effects, which means that they can last for months or even years. These may include:

  • Corneal abrasions or ulcers
  • Long-term inflammation
  • Vision impairment

Corneal abrasions can become serious if left untreated. They often heal on their own, but in more severe cases, prescription creams or bandage contact lenses may be needed for more efficient treatment. In cases of vision impairment from Dry Eye Syndrome, we can help.

If you suffer from Dry Eye and are ready for a solution to your painful symptoms, speak to one of the doctors at Rosen Optometry. We are here to help you experience better vision today.

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