Need-to-Know Eye Health Info

Are glasses that block blue light helpful? What is the ocular microbiome? Get the answers to these Qs and more.

How much do your customers do to protect their eyesight?

The 20/20 crowd might not care for it the way they should. “Most of us take our vision for granted, and we just assume that we’ll be able to see and do all of those typical activities of living,” shared Rudrani Banik, M.D., Associate Professor of Ophthalmology at Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine, Founder and Medical Director at EnVision Health NYC, in the Naturally Informed Event Healthy Aging: Mastering the Market. “It isn’t until something goes awry that we really realize the impact of our vision and how important it is.”

Things can go awry in many ways, from daily eye strain to outright vision loss—but it’s not inevitable. “Much of eye disease is preventable,” Dr. Banik said. “I can’t tell you how many patients I’ve seen over the years who have suffered from vision loss either from hypertensive side effects, diabetes side effects, high cholesterol, cardiac disease, autoimmune disease, and all of these things that could’ve been preventable with the right approaches. Prevention is key when it comes to eye health.”

Prevention should start early. Dr. Banik explained: “Macular Degeneration, Glaucoma, a lot of these eye diseases that we associate with aging can also happen to younger adults, and sometimes even in children. So, when it comes to eye health, making those choices early on is really key, and it’s important for families to promote eye health and teach their kids to start early. The natural approach is really based in nutrition as well as supplementation and lifestyle choices.”

A peek at what else Dr. Banik discussed at the event:

 

Dry Eye. What is dry eye? Dr. Banik explained: “Dry eye occurs when the surface of the eye, especially the cornea, dries out, and the tears are just not sufficient to provide adequate lubrication to the cornea and the surface of the eye. There’s a constellation of symptoms that can develop: burning, irritation, a scratchy or gritty sensation—some patients describe it as having sand or pebbles in the eye—and of course blurred vision. Tearing is also a common symptom—this may seem contradictory, but the eye begins to tear because it has dried out, and the tear glands kick in and they over produce tears. Dry eye can affect just about anyone, but it is more common as people get older and it is significantly more common in women, especially peri- or post-menopausal women.”

While eye drops are the mainstay of dry eye treatment, Dr. Banik said there is demand for more natural alternatives. One suggestion: Omega-3s, along with the omega-6 gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). A 2013 multicenter, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial enrolled 38 patients with tear dysfunction, who were randomized to either the placebo group or the test group, which supplemented with GLA + omega-3s for six months (1). The findings: The Ocular Surface Disease Index score improved with supplementation and was significantly lower than placebo after 24 weeks, and improved ocular irritation symptoms, although it did not have an effect on tear production.

 

Digital Eye Strain. Most of your customers probably know about the dangers of blue light, but Dr. Banik asked: How bad is blue light? Potentially not that bad, she said, pointing to a study that found blue light would damage eyes. “They took cells that were not human eye cells, but cervical cancer cells, because those cells grow very well in a petri dish. They exposed these cells to blue light, and those cells died. This does not replicate what happens in a human living eyeball. Our retinal cells have protective mechanisms against high-energy, short-wavelength blue light. As far as we know, blue light does not cause permanent damage, but it can cause short-term eye strain.”

People who do want an assist may not want to bother with blue blockers—”There is no research to show that blue-blocking glasses will provide you the protection you need,” Dr. Banik explained, “because there are different strengths of blue blockers, different gradients, and there are different mechanisms.” Instead, she recommended macular carotenoids. “These pigments are deposited right in the center of the retina. It’s basically a bullseye of pigment deposition in the retina. These pigments serve as antioxidants, they help to neutralize oxidative stress and phototoxicity from UV light as well as blue light, and there are many studies supporting the benefits of using these nutrients to increase macular pigment and to protect against eye diseases, including early work looking at blue light.” While these pigments can come from dark green leafy vegetables and yellow and orange foods, she notes that people on Western diets typically get only 1-2mg of all macular carotenoids, while the recommendation is 6.5-20mg of lutein daily and 1-2mg daily of zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin each.

 

Looking Forward

There’s still more to learn about the eye itself. Dr. Banik shared: “There is an ocular surface microbiome—we didn’t know about it until 2017, the ocular surface was previously thought to be sterile. But we have microbes and when those are eliminated patients are at higher risk of diseases.” An article posted by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, written by Reena Mukamal, notes that the ocular microbiome has a relatively small microbiome: “The community of micro-organisms (flora) in the eye are found on the conjunctiva (the clear tissue covering the white part of your eye) and the cornea. Compared to other bodily microbiomes, the ocular surface microbiome is sparsely occupied. If the skin is the Los Angeles of microbiomes, the eye is more like Wichita, Kansas, with roughly 1/100th the number of resident micro-organisms. The core ocular surface microbiome for most people has just four species: Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Propionibacterium, and Corynebacterium” (2). This area is ripe for research, so keep an eye on it.

For more, head to www.NaturallyInformed.net to register for the Healthy Aging event on-demand, so that you can view Dr. Banik’s entire presentation for free. WF

 

References

  1. John D. Sheppard Jr. et al, “Long-term Supplementation With n-6 and n-3 PUFAs Improves Moderate-to-Severe Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca,” Cornea. 32(10). 1297-1304(2013). https://journals.lww.com/corneajrnl/Abstract/2013/10000/Long_term_Supplementation_With_n_6_and_n_3_PUFAs.1.aspx
  2. Reena Mukamal, “Microbiome of the Eye,” American Academy of Ophthalmology. Posted 01/29/2019. Accessed 11/01/2021. https://www.aao.org/eye-health/anatomy/microbiome-of-eye