Sunlight, Lack of Anti-oxidants, & Eye Disease by Dr. Marc Grossman, OD, LAc

It is generally accepted among health providers that sunlight, blue light in the visible spectrum, are contributing factors to the development of macular degeneration – and use of wrap around sunglasses, amber in color, is the foremost recommendation for macular degeneration patients.

Researchers have further determined that blue light entering the eye combined with low levels of blood antioxidants heightens the risk. They measured vitamin E & C levels in the blood of over 4,700 elderly patients (average age 73 years), took pictures of their retinas, and reviewed questionnaires they had filled out including sun exposure.

The researchers found that 2% of the patients had advanced macular degeneration, and half had early AMD. They also found that the patients who had exposure to sunlight (including blue light) alone were not more likely to develop AMD, but those who had both blue light exposure and low levels of antioxidants (zeaxanthin, vitamin E, and vitamin C) were 3.7 time as likely to develop advanced macular degeneration.

The researchers’ conclusion was that both sunglasses protection and key antioxidants in the diet is necessary to prevent macular degeneration.

Supplement with nutrients that have been found to be helpful for light sensitivity. Research shows that people with higher macular pigment levels tolerate light better. Carotenoids such as meso-zeaxanthin, lutein, and zeaxanthin help to improve macular pigment density. When exposed to both bright, white light and short-wavelength blue light, people with greater macular-pigment optical density have better vision compared to subjects with lower optical density. Supplementation with lutein and zeaxanthin reduces glare effects.6 Recovery time for the subject with the lowest macular pigment optical density is twice as long as subjects with the highest macular pigment levels.

  • Always wear sunglasses outside, especially on bright days. (Blue and green eyed people are particularly sensitive to potential sun-induced damage, so the use of eye protection is paramount). Amber and grey lenses are the most effective protection against UVA/UVA and blue light.
  • Antioxidant deficiencies: Researchers report that free radical damage to the proteins in the lens of the eye are important factors in development of cataracts.
  • Nutrient deficiencies: Researchers report that nutrient deficiencies play a role in the development of cataracts.
    • Deficient glutathione levels contribute to a weak system of antioxidants. Lipoic acid, vitamins E and C, and selenium support glutathione levels.
    • Patients with cataracts tend to be low in vitamin A, lutein and zeaxanthin.
    • Riboflavin, vitamin B2, plays an important role in protection against cataracts.
    • L-carnosine is naturally produced by the body and its deficiency may contribute to cataract development.3
  • Free radicals: The by-products of our metabolism of food, cause oxidation, and in turn accelerating aging. As the lens of the eye ages, it hardens and loses the flexibility needed for focusing.
  • Chronic physical stress: Due to injury to the back or neck, continuing dental pain, or stress that limits movement of the head (and eyes) and increases tension and tightness in muscles.
  • Allergies and food sensitivities, especially allergies of soy, wheat or dairy products which might give rise to congestion and slow or block circulation of tiny capillaries delivering nutrients to the eye, as well as lymphatic drainage.
  • Smoking: People who smoke have a much higher risk of developing cataracts. When you smoke you rob the body of vitamin C a needed nutrient for healthy vision. Smokers also have more cholesterol and fat in their blood system with more risk of coronary artery disease. This condition also compromises the effectiveness of tiny blood vessels in the eyes – reducing the ability of the different parts of the eye to receive adequate nutrition. Learn more about the relationship between smoking and cataracts.
  • Diabetics form cataracts at a younger age than those who do not suffer from diabetes. This is due to the build-up of sugar resulting in glycation (binding together of sugar and protein molecules). Researchers note that argpyrimidine, a biochemical formed in the presence of sugars, increase in diseased lenses.
  • Poor digestion and nutrition: nutritional deficiencies contribute to earlier and faster-developing cataracts. People with incomplete digestion and ongoing bowel and elimination problems have a four times as many cases.
  • Heredity and advanced age by themselves are risk factors.
  • Heredity and congenital cataracts. In about 4/10ths of infant births cataracts are present at birth or develop soon after. Some can be removed surgically; future treatments may include stem cell therapy.
  • Sunlight includes invisible UV light that accelerates damage to the lens by free radicals. These effects are cumulative. Researchers have pointed out that no amount of sunlight is a safe level for the eyes. They calculate that there is a 10% increase for every year of exposure of “Maryland sun-years” (the amount of sun falling on Maryland in one year), and the eye takes in 9 to 18% of this exposure to UV radiation.


Marc Grossman, Doctor of Optometry and New York State Licensed Acupuncturist is author of several books, including Natural Eye Care – Your Guide to Healthy Vision.  Since 1980 Dr. Marc Grossman has helped many people maintain healthy vision and even improve eyesight. He is best described as a Holistic Eye Doctor, dedicated to helping people with such conditions ranging from myopia and dry eyes to potentially vision threatening diseases as macular degeneration and glaucoma. His combined multi-disciplinary approach using nutrition, eye exercises, lifestyle changes and Chinese Medicine provides him with a wide array of tools and approaches to tackle difficult eye problems. Dr. Grossman founded the Rye Learning Center in 1980, a multidisciplinary center for learning problems, in 1996 co-founded Integral Health Associates in New Paltz, New York, and in 1999 co-founded Natural Eye Care, Inc. For more information go to or call 845-255-3728.