Patients look to their eyecare practitioners for all their eye health needs, so it’s baffling when optometrists don’t carry ocular supplements in their practices—especially with the scientific evidence that antioxidants slow down the progression of macular degeneration and omega-3 fatty acids control dry eye problems.
According to the Natural Marketing Institute’s 2010 Health & Wellness Trends Database, some 71% of consumers polled are concerned “a lot” about preventing vision/eye health problems. This is no surprise since the rise in the number of Baby Boomers increases the concerns of impaired vision. Afterall, ocular impairment is one of the top reasons elderly people lose their independence. Don’t forget the younger generation who are experiencing the ocular strain, including oxidative stress, from growing up in a technology-driven society with numerous electronic devices like smartphones, Kindles, iPads, etc. Add to this society’s anxiety of the adverse effects of UV light, and it becomes clear that eyecare practitioners should be providing a means to maintain healthy vision and prevent future vision problems.
Providing ocular supplements in your practice will not come to a surprise to your patients. The majority of patients already associate lutein with supporting healthy vision. Fish oil supplements have also become popular among consumers, largely due to its benefits on brain function, but it’s now also known to be the best source for EPA and DHA, the omega-3 essential fatty acids that are essential for the development and maintenance of eye tissue. But what about other ingredients that your patients may not be aware of? Zeaxanthin, astaxanthin, bilberry, beta-carotene, vitamin E, resveratrol, and even Pycnogenol (pine bark extract) have all shown potential in the vision health area.
Instead of stocking supplements, some practitioners prefer to simply make recommendations of certain products, but what are the chances of patients actually following through and making the purchase on their own? Pretty slim. If by chance they do go to the store, there’s a high probability they will be swayed by lower-priced, similar “looking” yet not as effective products. Ultimately, it’s up to you to stock the high-quality, science-based formulas that contain proper amounts of ingredients.
So how do you know which supplements are the most effective? That requires a little homework on your part. There are plenty of white papers, workshops, and continuing education courses available. Attending trade shows also helps. This allows you to ask questions directly to the manufacturer.