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Natural supplements that make it easy on the eyes

Suzy Cohen

Dear Pharmacist

11:06 AM EDT, August 30, 2013

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Dear Pharmacist: I need more options to protect my vision. I take prescription eye drops, but I'm steadily declining. — R.J., Decatur, Ill.

Dear R.J.: I'm sorry to hear that. I'm always researching ways to protect eyesight because it is so precious, and so often taken for granted. Supplements are usually OK to take, even if you use prescription drops such as Timolol, Xalatan, Restasis, Zaditor, Travatan, Acular or the "eyelash-growing" Latisse.

Numerous multi-tasking formulas are sold at pharmacies, and they contain key eye-nourishing ingredients like minerals, omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins. These lay a good foundation but may not be enough. So even if you take Ocuvite or I-Caps, for example, it's probably all right to take one of the nutrients I list below, or both for that matter.

Since we are dealing with your eyes, get your ophthalmologist's blessings for any new supplements, even if they are sold without prescription.

Astaxanthin: Sold at health food stores nationwide, it gets my stamp of approval for macular degeneration and glaucoma based upon my research. This is a soft gel, not an eye drop. Astaxanthin can be thought of as a cousin of beta carotene. Because it can reduce Asthenopia (eye fatigue) by 54 percent, and I work on a computer, I take this.

Astaxanthin is a protective antioxidant; it never goes pro-oxidant like other nutrients. Studies show it also helps joint pain, supports healthy cholesterol levels, eases fine lines and improves endurance. Since I take 12 milligrams of BioAstin every day, I can vouch for these benefits from my own personal experience.

Astaxanthin is helpful for diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration and seeing things in fine detail. A new study, published in Molecular Vision on July 25, found that the natural astaxanthin reduced "oxidative stress on retinal pigment epithelial cells," which just so happen to play a crucial role in the development and progression of age-related macular degeneration.

Hyaluronic acid: I think this supplement is perfect for dry eye. It's naturally found in your vitreous humor, which is the gel-like liquid in your eye. It may help floaters, glaucoma, a detached retina or diabetic retinopathy. Doctors sometimes suggest taking hyaluronic acid supplements to improve recovery and minimize scarring after cataract surgery. It is fabulous for bones (think osteoporosis) and skin. Hyaluronic acid is the star ingredient in skin fillers like Restylane and Juvederm.

Since my focus is on eyes, I'll tell you that hyaluronic acid can be taken as an oral supplement and is sold at health food stores. I haven't tried any brands myself. I found eye drops with it, including AMO Blink Contacts Lubricating Drops and Oxyal.

This is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose your condition. Go to SuzyCohen.com.