Vision vitamins are an important component of our everyday diet. Apart from the vitamin A which is widely known for its important properties, there are many others that play a central role in maintaining good eyesight. These nutritional elements include vitamin B6 and C and others such as selenium, zinc and magnesium among others. There are many different types of foods that contain many of these elements in different combinations. Examples include green leafy vegetables, oranges, carrots and pumpkins among others.
Vitamin A is important for continuous eye health. It facilitates better vision by influencing the synthesis of the pigmented rhodopsin found in the retina. It promotes good night vision or helps one see better in dim light. In addition, it ensures the cornea is kept moist by maintaining the integrity of related membranes.
The A vitamin is not a single unit as such but is composed of a group of hydrocarbons which are not saturated. These include retinoic acid, retinal, retinol and a number of vitamin A precursors (carotenoids). The most important among the pro vitamin A carotenoids is beta carotene. Retinal component combines with the protein opsin to form rhodopsin. The so formed light absorbing molecule is vital for both colour and low light (scotopic) vision.
Lack of vitamin A causes many eye problems whose severity varies depending on the period of time one is affected and the extent of deficiency. Such a deficiency will be caused by inadequate amounts of vitamin A in the diet for a long time. This is called primary vitamin A deficiency. Its prevention entails frequent intake of carotenoid containing foods such as fruits, vegetables and dairy products.
Secondary deficiency may be seen in a number of circumstances. For instance, it is seen when there is malabsorption of the vitamin. This frequently occurs when there is decreased uptake of lipids and reduced release of bile. The vitamin requires fat to dissolve and a deficiency of the fats will therefore result in decreased absorption. Other risk factors for the same include prolonged smoking and alcohol intake.
Night blindness is one of the commonest and earliest symptoms of deficiency. One of the causes of reduced vision is drying of the conjunctiva which takes place as the condition progresses. The normal secretory system is progressively replaced with hardened keratinised tissue. As keratin plaques are eroded progressively, more keratinisation takes place.
The other vitamins play a relatively minor role. Vitamin C has antioxidant properties which help protect the eye from irradiation. It is also important in the maintenance of capillary integrity and normal pressure. The B6 vitamin maintains red cell structure and function and thus ensures that the retina functions optimally. Zinc takes part in the conversion of beta carotene to vitamin A.
While it may not be practical to take all vision vitamins every day, it is advisable to take food supplements that contain the maximum number of essential vitamins in them. The amount of intake is also limited by factors such as age, sex, pregnancy and lactation. It is important to ensure that one takes just the right amount of nutrients to avoid toxicity and related complications.
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