Alternative Medicine and Eye Health

As I have been getting more and more into non-toxic and organic products- I started to wonder, what does that mean for the future of optical. The first Natural Optometrist I ever met, was Dr. Jeff Anshel of the Optometric Nutrition Society The Purpose of the Society is:

  • To sponsor professional symposia as well as a website, and to generate materials to educate professionals regarding the role of nutrition in systemic and ocular health.
    To provide a collegial atmosphere where health care professionals can exchange ideas and concepts regarding nutritional influences on vision.
    Provide a resource pool of clinically relevant refereed studies that support the role of safe nutritional support for the management of ocular and systemic disease.
    To monitor and validate claims made by industry regarding the quality and efficacy of nutritional supplements.
    To encourage the inclusion of nutrition education in the curricula of optometry schools.

Eye Boogling Stats:

  • At that time, the media and physician witnesses pointed out that spending on our nation’s health care is likely to double to $2.1 trillion by the year 2007; that already proven mind-body therapies could eliminate 37 percent of visits to the doctor per year and save $54 billion annually; and that stress contributes to many of the medical conditions confronted by healthcare practitioners — between 60 to 90 percent of visits to Physicians are related to stress and other psychosocial factors.
  • Senator Tom Harkin, the Ranking member of the Appropriations subcommittee, subsequently shared with his colleagues a report developed by the Institute for Alternative Futures. This document noted that today, complementary and alternative approaches to health and medicine are among the fastest growing aspects of health care. In 1990, one-third of the U.S. population used some form of alternative approach to health care, and by the year 2010 at least two-thirds will.
  • Approximately 38 percent of U.S. adults age 18 years and over, and approximately 12 percent of children, use some form of complementary and alternative medicine — including meditation, massage and herbal supplements — according to anationwide government survey . The survey doesn’t address efficacy, just usage. (Our Bodies Ourselves has a comprehensive list of links to complementary and alternative medicine websites. (CAM Study)

Then I found this information from AARP- who in conjunction with CAM conducted their own study. These are the reasons that patients do not discuss Alternative Medicine with their doctors. Personally speaking, I just got my cholesterol count back and it was very high. The Dr. wanted to prescribe Lipator, and I said NO WAY! Then asked about diet change, natural products. Did I get shut down, yes and will never discuss this with a doctor again. I came home and went on the Internet. In fact, most of my friends research their symptoms first on the Internet before they go to a Dr.s. Probably due to the following reasons:

  • 12% Doctor would have been dismissive or told you not to do it
  • 17% Don’t think doctor knows the topic
  • 19% Not enough time during office visit
  • 305 Didn’t know they should
  • 42% Doctor never asked

That said- Should you expand your traditional eye health role to include nutrition? Research has shown that nutrition can impact the development of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which are the two leading causes of blindness and visual impairment among millions of aging Americans. Nutrition may be particularly important given that currently, treatment options after diagnosis for these eye diseases are limited. Other Eye Health related problems that could be lessened are Dry Eye, Glaucoma,

The Problem; Approximately 10 million Americans suffer from early signs of AMD  and almost a half million people have significant visual loss from late-stage AMD.

The Solution -The carotenoids lutein (pronounced loo-teen) and zeaxanthin (pronounced zee-uh- zan-thin), which are antioxidants and the only carotenoids located in the eye, may protect against cataracts and AMD.

The Problem ; Cataract extractions are the most common surgical procedure performed in the U.S., accounting for more than 2 million procedures each year.  It has been estimated that if the progression of cataracts could be delayed by 10 years, the number of cataract extraction surgeries per year would be reduced by 45 percent.

The Solution:Lutein and zeaxanthin intake and its relationship to risk of cataracts has been examined in four recent observational or epidemiological studies:
•The Nurses’ Health Study found that consuming high amounts of lutein+zeaxanthin reduced the need for cataract surgery.  Intake among this group was approximately 6 mg per day.
•The Health Professional’s Follow-Up Study also found that high amounts of lutein+zeaxanthin (6.9 mg per day) lowered the need for cataract surgery.
•The five-year follow-up to the Beaver Dam Eye Study showed that people who got the most lutein+zeaxanthin had a much lower risk for developing new cataracts than people had the least amounts.
•A study of 372 men and women aged 66-75 in England found that the risk for specific type of cataracts was the lowest in people with the highest amount of lutein in their blood.

Who Practices?

  • Reviewing Dr. Grossman’s site- Vision Works Inc Who believes “that the health of the eye depends on the well-being of the one’s entire body. Therefore in healing and preservation of vision we provide lifestyle, diet and nutritional recommendations, as well as nutritional products we suggest based on our analysis of peer review studies, presented by disease.”
  • Charles Steinberg OD-“I believe that health is a manifestation of balance, both within the body itself and between the body and the external environment. When the body is internally balanced and in harmony with the external environment, energy flows smoothly throughout to nourish all organs and tissues. By adjusting and stimulating the flow of energy through acupuncture, we stimulate the body’s natural healing ability to maintain health and protect against disease.”
  • Dr. Benjamin C Lane- Nutritional Optometry
  • New England Eye Center– Has a section for Environmental Optometry “We provide patient education and advice regarding environmental and occupational factors which influence visual performance, safety, comfort and hygiene.”
  • Natural Vision Correction- Dr. Larry A. Jebrock, behavioral optometrist. We are dedicated to restoring eyesight and preventing, reducing and/or eliminating the need for eyeglasses without surgery. We emphasize eye exercises, vision processing and reprogramming (VPR), orthokeratology contact lens therapy, light therapy, and nutritional therapy in our treatments. Additionally, we offer an intensive program of optometric visual training to enhance eye, mind, and body as it relates to reading, learning, and sports activities.
  • Natural EyeCare ( This is a Blog)
  • Natural Vision Improvement-

My Conclusion

1.) Consumer Trends are looking for Organic, Alternative, Holistic and Natural Ways to improve health in general- this is an opportunity for the ECP.

2.) Consumers are not going to talk to you about it, for many of the reasons stated above. They will either go elsewhere or try to improve it themselves and shop elsewhere for natural remedies.

3.) To offer and discuss with natural health with patients will help to overcome the Internet Challenge.

  1. As an example this website- Rebuild Your Vision The Tagline is “Here’s the 17 Vitamins, Minerals, and Herbal Supplements That Medical Research Has Shown To Support Your Vision And Eye Health”- Here it is online- Couldn’t you do this as well?

4.) To have available either product or information for staff and the consumer about Eye Health and Nutrition

5.) Educate not only yourself and staff as to the benefits of Eye Health and Nutrition

6.) Nutrition Products are a great way to overcome managed care and provide needed add on sales.

7.) Natural, Holistic, Complimentary, Environmental and Alternative Eye Health Products will bring in referral business and increase patient retention.