Posted on Feb 23, 2017, 6 a.m.
Vitamin B3 added to drinking water is effective at preventing glaucoma in mice.
With glaucoma being the leading cause of irreversible blindness in the United States, affecting three million Americans, and being the second leading cause of blindness in the world, it is imperative that research continues to try to find answers to this debilitating eye disease.
According to a new study, researchers found that when vitamin B3, a natural option, was added to the drinking water of mice that were genetically predisposed to glaucoma, they did not develop that condition because of the boost given to the metabolic reliability of eye cells that are aging and keep them healthier for a longer time.
Glaucoma is a common eye condition, and, once vision is lost, it cannot be recovered. The condition causes damage to the optic nerve of the eye, getting worse as time passes. It is linked to a pressure buildup inside the eye. The increased pressure can do damage to the the optic nerve that transmits images to the brain.
Glaucoma can be treated with medication, eye drops, or surgery to slow the progress. However, the Mayo Clinic reported that even with treatment, approximately 15 percent of individuals that have glaucoma will become blind in at least one eye within 20 years of appearance of the first symptoms. Without proper treatment, total permanent blindness could occur within a few years.
Common symptoms of glaucoma include eye pain, severe headaches, patchy spots in or blurring of vision, halos around light, eye redness, nausea and vomiting, and tunnel vision in the late stages.
To catch glaucoma in the early stages, the American Academy of Ophthalmology's recommendation is screenings for glaucoma each four years after age 40 and each two years after age 60.
Other recommendations state that if you are over age 40 and have a family history of glaucoma, you should get a complete exam from an eye doctor every one to two years. If you suffer from health problems such as diabetes or are at risk for other eye diseases, it may be necessary to go more often.
The research team is now planning to enter clinical trials that will test the effectiveness of vitamin B treatment in actual glaucoma patients and are hoping that the results will repeat those found in mice. This could provide an affordable and safe new alternative treatment to keep the eye cells from wearing down and becoming predisposed to developing glaucoma.
The team believes that a single gene therapy injection directly to the eye could provide the same results, which would be easier, especially for elderly patients who often have trouble remembering to take medication on a daily basis.
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Pete A. Williams, Jeffrey M. Harder, Nicole E. Foxworth, Kelly E. Cochran, Vivek M. Philip, Vittorio Porciatti, Oliver Smithies, Simon W. M. John. Vitamin B 3 modulates mitochondrial vulnerability and prevents glaucoma in aged mice. Science, 2017; 355 (6326): 756 DOI: 10.1126/science.aal0092