Vitamin D and the eye

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Many of my patients take an assortment of supplements such as Calcium, Omega-3, Multi-Vitamins with Minerals, and Vitamin D on a daily basis. Are you one of those individuals taking vitamins regularly? And if so, are you taking Vitamin D?

It is a known fact that those that reside high up in the northern hemisphere require taking supplemental Vitamin D because they are not exposed to enough sunlight. You see, just being under the sun for about 15 minutes a day will help your skin convert sunlight into usable Vitamin D for your body to use. You can also get Vitamin D through a diet of fish (herring, mackerel, sardines, tuna) and fortified dairy products.

Nowadays, people are unfortunately becoming more deficient in Vitamin D levels for two reasons: diligent use of sunscreen, which on one hand aids in the prevention of skin cancer, but on the other hand it blocks the skin from producing enough Vitamin D for your body; and a diet lacking in foods rich in Vitamin D.

Vitamin D was originally believed to strengthen our bones. Through the Fall Risk studies, Vitamin D has proven that it goes beyond prevention of osteoporosis. It is involved in the prevention or reduction of symptoms in Alzheimer disease, asthma, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, dental caries, depression, diabetes and Diabetic Retinopathy, eczema, hypertension, inflammatory bowel disease, influenza, Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis and Optic Neuritis, pneumonia/respiratory infections, and tuberculosis.

With the eye in particular, research has revealed that individuals with diabetes had little to no presentation of diabetic retinopathy while taking supplemental Vitamin D. Furthermore, clinical research has shown that individuals recently diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and subsequently placed on high dose Vitamin D had both their neurologic signs and symptoms improve. Continued studies are proving that sufficient levels of Vitamin D may ward off episodes of inflammation of the optic nerve in the eye (Optic Neuritis).

From all the known benefits of taking Vitamin D, wouldn’t it be a good idea to check the status of Vitamin D level in your blood? Taking supplemental vitamins can be a controversial subject. If you do decide to jump on the band wagon, it is always a good idea to talk to your primary care physician before you start taking Vitamin D or any other supplements. Let’s bone up (no pun intended) on Vitamin D!

~ Judy Tong, O.D., F.A.A.O.
California Optometric Association

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