The jury is still out on that question. There is some supportive experimental data in animal models but no well-done human studies that show any significant benefit.

What you shouldn’t do is pass up taking the AREDS 2 nutritional supplement formula, which is clinically proven to reduce the risk of severe visual loss in. Almost all the data supporting the POSSIBLE benefits of bilberry in visual conditions is related to NON-HUMANS. Stick with the AREDS 2 formula that has excellent clinical evidence.

So, what is bilberry and why do some people use it?

Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus), a low-growing shrub that produces a blue-colored berry, is native to Northern Europe and grows in North America and Asia. It is naturally rich in anthocyanins, which have anti-oxidant properties.

During World War II, British pilots in the Royal Air Force ate bilberry jam, hoping to improve their night vision. No one is exactly sure where the impetus to do this came from, but it is believed that this event is what lead to some widespread claims that bilberry was good for your eyes.

A study by JH Kramer,  Anthocyanosides of Vaccinium myrtillus (Bilberry) for Night Vision - A Systematic Review of Placebo-Controlled Trials, reviewed most of the literature pertaining to the claim that bilberry improves night vision. He found that the four most recent trials, which were all rigorous randomized controlled trials (RCTs), showed no correlation with bilberry extract and improved night vision. A fifth RCT and seven non-randomized controlled trials reported positive effects on outcome measures relevant to night vision, but these studies had less-rigorous methodology.

Healthy subjects with normal or above-average eyesight were tested in 11 of the 12 trials. The hypothesis that V. myrtillus improves normal night vision is not supported by evidence from rigorous clinical studies. There is a complete absence of rigorous research into the effects of the extract on subjects suffering impaired night vision due to pathological eye conditions.

Even though there is no solid evidence in human studies that bilberry produces any positive visual effects on night vision there is some experimental evidence that implies it might be useful in some ocular conditions whose mode of action is oxidative stress. There are recent epidemiologic, molecular and genetic studies that show a major role of oxidative stress in age-related macular degeneration.

There have been some studies showing oxidative protective effects of bilberry in non-human models. 

In Protective effects of bilberry and lingonberry extracts against blue-light emitting diode light-induced retinal photoreceptor cell damage in vitro, Ogawa et al showed in cultured mouse cells that adding bilberry extract to cells before subjecting them to high-energy short-wavelength light that the cells survived better mostly by reducing the amount of reactive oxidative molecules. 

In Retinoprotective Effects of Bilberry Anthocyanins via Antioxidant, Anti-Inflammatory, and Anti-Apoptotic Mechanisms in a Visible Light-Induced Retinal Degeneration Model in Pigmented Rabbits, Wang et al found similarly improved survival of pigmented rabbit retinal cells when exposed to bilberry abstract prior to high-intensity light.

But bilberry is not without potential side effects.

Bilberry possesses anti-platelet activity; it may interact with NSAIDs, particularly aspirin. And excessive drinking of bilberry juice may cause diarrhea. One study of 2,295 people given bilberry extract found a 4% incidence of side effects or adverse events. Further, bilberry side effects may include mild digestive distress, skin rashes and drowsiness. Chronic uses of the bilberry leaf may lead to serious side effects. High doses of bilberry leaf can be poisonous.

Bilberry has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration for safety, effectiveness, or purity.

 

Article contributed by Dr. Brian Wnorowski, M.D.

The retina is the nerve tissue that lines the inside back wall of your eye. Light travels through the pupil and lens and is focused on the retina, where it is converted into a neural impulse and transmitted to the brain. If there is a break in the retina, fluid can track underneath the retina and separate it from the eye wall. Depending on the location and degree of retinal detachment, there can be very serious vision loss.

Symptoms

The three 3 F’s are the most common symptoms of a retinal detachment:

  • Flashes: Flashing lights that are usually seen in peripheral (side) vision.

  • Floaters: Hundreds of dark spots that persist in the center of vision.

  • Field cut: Curtain or shadow that usually starts in peripheral vision that may move to involve the center of vision.

Causes

Retinal detachments can be broadly divided into three categories depending on the cause of the detachment:

Rhegmatogenous retinal detachments: Rhegmatogenous means “arising from a rupture,” so these detachments are due to a break in the retina that allows fluid to collect underneath the retina. A retinal tear can develop when the vitreous (the gel-like substance that fills the back cavity of the eye) separates from the retina as part of the normal aging process.

The risk factors associated with this type of retinal detachment:

  • Lattice degeneration – thinning of the retina.

  • High myopia (nearsighted) - can result in thinning of the retina.

  • History of a previous retinal break or detachment in the other eye.

  • Trauma.

  • Family history of retinal detachment.

Tractional retinal detachments: These are caused by scar tissue that grows on the surface of the retina and contraction of the scar tissue pulls the retina off the back of the eye. The most common cause of scar tissue formation is due to uncontrolled diabetes.

Exudative retinal detachments: These types of detachments form when fluid accumulates underneath the retina. This is due to inflammation inside the eye that results in leaking blood vessels. The visual changes can vary depending on your head position because the fluid will shift as you move your head. There is no associated retinal hole or break in this type detachment. Of the three types of retinal detachments, exudative is the least common.

Diagnostic tests

  • A dilated eye exam is needed to examine the retina and the periphery. This may entail a scleral depression exam where gentle pressure is applied to the eye to examine the peripheral retina.

  • A scan of the retina (optical coherence tomography) may be performed to detect any subtle fluid that may accumulate under the retina.

  • If there is significant blood or a clear view of the retina is not possible then an ultrasound of the eye may be performed.

Treatment

The goal of treatment is to re-attach the retina to the eye wall and treat the retinal tears or holes.

In general, there are four treatment options:

  • Laser: A small retinal detachment can be walled off with a barrier laser to prevent further spread of the fluid and the retinal detachment.

  • Pneumatic Retinopexy: This is an office-based procedure that requires injecting a gas bubble inside the eye. After this procedure, you need to position your head in a certain direction for the gas bubble to reposition the retina back along the inside wall of the eye. A freezing or laser procedure is performed around the retinal break. This procedure has about 70% to 80% success rate but not everyone is a good candidate for a pneumatic retinopexy.

  • Scleral buckle: This is a surgery that needs to be performed in the operating room. This procedure involves placing a silicone band around the outside of the eye to bring the eye wall closer to the retina. The retinal tear is then treated with a freezing procedure. Vitrectomy: In this surgery, the vitreous inside the eye is removed and the fluid underneath the retina is drained. The retinal tear is then treated with either a laser or freezing procedure. At the completion of the surgery, a gas bubble fills the eye to hold the retina in place. The gas bubble will slowly dissipate over several weeks. Sometimes a scleral buckle is combined with a vitrectomy surgery.

Prognosis

Final vision after retinal detachment repair is usually dependent on whether the macula (central part of the retina that you use for fine vision) is involved. If the macula is detached, then there is usually some decrease in final vision after reattachment. Therefore, a good predictor is initial presenting vision. We recommend that patients with symptoms of retinal detachments (flashes, floaters, or field cuts) have a dilated eye exam. The sooner the diagnosis is made, the better the treatment outcome.

 

Article contributed by Dr. Jane Pan

This blog provides general information and discussion about eye health and related subjects. The words and other content provided in this blog, and in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. If the reader or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately licensed physician. The content of this blog cannot be reproduced or duplicated without the express written consent of Eye IQ.

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