Age-related macular degeneration is one of the leading causes of vision loss for Americans 65 and older. This is also known as known as AMD for short. If you or someone you know has begun experiencing the symptoms associated with AMD, it is important to understand what you can do to help prevent this disease from progressing to full vision loss.

What Are AREDS Vitamins?

AREDS vitamins are named after the Age-Related Eye Disease Study. This clinical trial was sponsored by the National Eye Institute. Mainly to investigate the causes of AMD, glaucoma, cataracts and other conditions that cause vision loss as well as what cures there might be.

While no cure exists today, the antioxidants and zinc found in these vitamins can help. These vitamins to prevent you from experiencing further vision loss by slowing down the process of AMD.

There are currently two formulas on the market called AREDS and AREDS 2. The original formula consists of:

  • 500 milligrams of Vitamin C
  • 400 international units of Vitamin E
  • 15 milligrams of Beta-Carotene
  • 80 milligrams of Zinc in the form of Zinc Oxide
  • And 2 milligrams Copper in the form of Cupric Oxide

Each of these supplements works to preserve your vision except Cupric Oxide. Cupric Oxide prevents anemia from the high intake of Zinc.

In the second formula, Beta-Carotene was replaced with Lutein and Zeaxanthin. This change was made after research found that smokers had an increased risk of lung cancer while taking high levels of Beta-Carotene. The amount of Zinc was lowered to 25 milligrams, and 1000 milligrams of Omega-3 Fatty Acids were added.

Combined with this Omega-3 nutrient, the Lutein and Zeaxanthin found in the second AREDS vitamins formula help lower your risk of developing advanced AMD.

What Are AREDS Used For?

AREDS vitamins are used as a preventative measure against macular degeneration. There are many factors that increase your risk for developing this disease such as family history and health conditions. Honestly, anyone over the age of 65 is at an increased risk.

If you know that your chances of developing AMD are high, then it is strongly recommended that you take AREDS vitamins to maintain your vision as long as possible. Talking with your doctor or optometrist can help you determine whether preventative measures are right for you.

Even if there are no risk factors present, choosing to take AREDS now significantly reduces the risk of developing macular degeneration as you grow older.  

The History and Research Behind AREDS

From 1992 to 2001, the AREDS clinical trial focused how certain supplements affected 3,640 individuals who were already suffering from various diseases that cause vision loss. These included glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration, and others.

This study found that high dosages of specific supplements reduce the risk of developing advanced AMD by nearly 25%. However, they do not affect cataracts or glaucoma.

In 2006, a second study was designed to find out if adding Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Lutein, and Zeaxanthin would improve the formula. These would also replace Beta-Carotene, which was found to increase the risk of lung cancer for those who smoked.

The improved formula is better if you do not get a lot of Lutein or Zeaxanthin in your diet, both of which are found in leafy green vegetables like spinach. While the addition of Omega-3 does not help to slow down the effects of AMD, it might help to improve your cholesterol levels as well as mental and cardiovascular health.

The Benefits of Using AREDS

Dealing with the effects of losing your sight is challenging. While AMD does not cause complete vision loss, it severely affects what a person can see. In advanced cases, a person’s sight can be reduced to shapes and shadows in their peripheral.

This progressively makes daily life more challenging to the point of nearly impossible without the help of caregivers. AMD makes tasks like preparing meals, exercising, and simply moving around your house difficult.

The benefit of taking these vitamins is all in combating the vision loss caused by macular degeneration. If you are already experiencing AMD, then the mix of antioxidants and zinc found in these vitamins can help you hold on to your vision for a longer time.

The studies conducted by NIH and the National Eye Institute concluded that those with intermediate AMD, or those with advanced AMD in just one eye, benefitted the most from taking either AREDS or AREDS 2.

Who Are AREDS Made For?

Anyone at a high risk for developing advanced AMD should consider taking AREDS vitamins. There are a variety of factors that might put you at greater risk for this disease, making it necessary to understand what they are.

Macular degeneration can be genetic. If your family has a history of AMD, then you are at an increased risk. Women and Caucasians are also more susceptible to this form of vision loss, as are those with lighter colored eyes.

There are also medical factors that can contribute to AMD including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and heart disease. Other factors like high sun exposure and a poor diet can also contribute to your risk level.

Knowing the risk factors is a good start, but it is important to discuss whether you are at risk and if AREDS vitamins are the right option with your doctor and optometrist.  This is especially true if you are taking any other medications.

All Things Considered

Age-Related Macular Degeneration severely affects a person’s quality of life. While there are no cures available today, AREDS vitamins can help to slow down the degenerative process of AMD. This is for those who have already been diagnosed or are at a high-risk level for developing the disease.

Utilizing a powerful combination of several antioxidants and zinc can help. They can help you hold on to your sight longer and maintain your independence. If you or someone you know is over the age of 65, an appointment with an optometrist as well as a doctor can help you to assess your risk and determine whether this medication is a healthy choice.

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