Should you take vitamin tablets to improve your vision if you have AMD?

This is one of the most common questions I get asked as a consultant ophthalmic surgeon at Moorfields Eye Hospital when dealing with age-related macular degeneration patients and it is not an easy question to answer with a straight yes or no.

The main confusion to clear up is that there is no scientific evidence that taking vitamin supplements improves your vision if you have age-related macular degeneration.

Vitamin tablets only play a role in slowing down the progression of age-related macular degeneration as they work as anti-oxidants. This is only the case in certain patients with AMD.

I have constructed this table below to illustrate, which patients benefit from vitamin supplementation. This is taken from the AREDS 2 study, which is the largest study from which we have data.

Type of AMD Characteristics Vitamin Recommendation
Early dry A few small/medium-sized drusen, normal vision, no symptoms Not recommended
Intermediate dry Many medium-sized drusen, drusen under the retina, possible blurred vision Recommended
Advanced dry Drusen in the intermediate stage but also the breakdown of the light-sensitive cells and macular tissue, blurred central vision Recommended if in one eye only
Wet Abnormal blood vessels under the retina, fluid within the retina, wavy appearance to straight lines Recommended if in one eye only

 

As you can see, it can be quite confusing for patients and doctors alike.

There really is no replacement for a thorough examination from a highly experienced eye doctor to evaluate your needs.

I will be able to accurately categorise your type of macular degeneration and explain to you whether or not you would benefit from taking vitamin tablets to prevent your vision from getting worse.

The confusion doesn’t stop there.

There are many many vitamin supplements sold on the market that claim benefits for age-related macular degeneration. Which one should you take?

The AREDS 2 study shows that the following vitamin tablets and doses provided the benefit.

Tablet Dose
Vitamin C 500mg
Vitamin A 400 IU
Lutein 10 mg
Zeaxanthin 2 mg
Zinc (zinc oxide) 80 mg
Copper ( cupric oxide) 2 mg

 

These vitamins are commercially available to buy as one tablet so you don’t have to take 6 different tablets.

There are many variations on the market with different combinations and different dosing types. The above combination is the only one with good scientific evidence.

It gets more confusing. It is unlikely that your will be able to receive this supplement as a prescription from your GP as they may not class it as a medicine. And those patients who wish to take them end up paying for them.

It is also important to mention that if you do take the vitamin supplements, you need to take them daily and continually. You will not get the benefit if you take them every now and then.

Paying for vitamin supplements taken daily can be costly and some of my patients ask me about alternatives.

My best advice is that it would seem sensible to supplement your diet with food that is naturally rich in those vitamins.

I recommend eating vegetables such as curly kale, yellow peppers, yellow sweet corn, purple sprouting broccoli and spinach.

It is important to note that it is difficult to achieve such high doses of vitamins from dietary sources however.

The role of vitamin supplementation in age-related macular degeneration is rather confusing.

If you would like to chat further about any aspect of age-related macular degeneration, please feel free call me on 020 7305 5063.