Experts warn that a popular vitamin supplement may increase the risk of blindness.
Vitamin supplements are meant to provide the body with essential vitamins for optimum health. One problem with pills is that they are not regulated, which means that many boosters contain high concentrations of ingredients that can be harmful. Another common problem is improper dosage. With some supplements, failure to follow directions can result in “severe vision” loss.
Niacin supplements are used for their cholesterol-lowering properties, with studies claiming they can lower triglycerides by up to 50%.
When used in large doses, however, the supplement can cause blurred vision, macular degeneration (which can lead to blindness), and eye inflammation.
A major report looking at years of research found that self-prescribed high doses of over-the-counter niacin can cause severe vision loss.
In 2019, experts at the New York Ear Infirmary at Mount Sinai concluded in a clinical report that vision loss is associated with different types of cells in patients’ eyes.
Fortunately, experts noted that stopping the supplement made the disease go away.
“Niacin supplements are available over-the-counter,” said Monica Wasserman, MD.
“Does this mean they are safe? The most straightforward answer is that it depends on the dosage consumed.
“An overdose on niacin supplements triggers retinal inflammation, a condition we scientifically call cystoid maculopathy.
“This retinal disease exhibits a range of symptoms, from less severe blurred vision to general vision loss.”
According to the National Eye Institute, cystoid maculopathy can cause objects to appear fuzzy or blurry.
According to the Health Organization, discolored complexions or visuals that appear less spectacular can potentially be a sign of the condition.
“If ignored, these symptoms increase the risk of severe vision loss or blindness,” Miss Wasserman said.
“Quitting use of niacin or vitamin B3 supplements reverses retinal inflammation.
“Retinal function is fully restored, positively affecting the production of electrical signals.”
It’s worth noting that studies published earlier this year in Review of Optometry support the use of low-dose niacin to prevent glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness in the US.
“Low doses of the supplement reduce the risk of glaucoma, a condition characterized by the formation of high pressure in the eye, which leads to optic nerve damage,” explained Miss Wasserman.
Glaucoma is an eye condition that damages the optic nerve, which, if left untreated, can lead to permanent vision loss.
“In conditions like glaucoma, a silent killer of vision, many people with it don’t experience any symptoms at all,” said optician Sharon Copeland of Feel Good Contacts.
“It’s very difficult to know if you have a problem in one eye while you have good vision in the other.”
Glaucoma in its advanced stages can cause significant pain in the eyes or forehead, as well as redness of the eyes and surrounding light.
While there is evidence that niacin may help prevent vision loss, it should never be used without the guidance of a qualified health professional.
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