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The vision thing

In order to paint or draw, an artist pretty much needs to be able to see.

Over the past cou­ple of years, I’ve been expe­ri­enc­ing what I con­sid­ered to be nor­mal age-related declines in vision (I’m 46). I’ve had more and more trou­ble read­ing small text. When read­ing for too long, my vision locked into that dis­tance and I became unable to focus on greater dis­tances for sev­eral min­utes. My dis­tance vision became notice­ably less acute (road signs were harder to read, for exam­ple). I couldn’t see as well in low light. I began mak­ing plans to visit an ophthalmologist—something I should have done much earlier.

About a 6 weeks ago, after doing some research, I began tak­ing vit­a­min D sup­ple­ments in rel­a­tively high doses (6,000 iu per day) in gel­cap form (solid pills have not been shown to increase serum blood lev­els of vit­a­min D). I did this because I’d read about research on reduc­tion of can­cer and dia­betes in peo­ple tak­ing sim­i­lar dosages.

Well, I still don’t have can­cer or dia­betes (as far as I know). Yay for me. The unex­pected effect, how­ever, is that my vision has dra­mat­i­cally improved. I can read smaller text with­out strain. My vision no longer gets blurry when I read for too long. My dis­tance vision is more acute. My night vision has improved. I don’t have the 20/15 vision I had when I was 25, but my eyes cer­tainly work a lot bet­ter. It appears that the reduced flex­i­bil­ity of the corneas that hap­pens with age has been to some degree reversed.

I can’t be cer­tain that vit­a­min D is the cause of the improve­ment, as I made other dietary improve­ments at about the same time (cut­ting out almost all processed foods, refined sugar, and wheat, for exam­ple). I’m also unwill­ing to stop tak­ing vit­a­min D for a month or so to see if my vision declines. But I think the most likely expla­na­tion is the vit­a­min D. I’m pretty pleased.

I’m not a doc­tor and you should not take med­ical advice from me. If you were to do this, the results would prob­a­bly be dif­fer­ent from mine, but I thought I would pass this on.

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20 Responses

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  1. Ryan says

    Amaz­ing stuff! Be aware it is pos­si­ble to over­dose on vit D. If this is a régime you plan to stick to I would reg­u­larly order blood tests for 25 Hydroxy Vit­a­min D. (25 OHD) This will give you an idea of your defi­ciency any­thing under 30 is too low (you want to be between 50 and 80 ng/ml). Good luck!

    • David says

      Thanks, Ryan. I’m aware of that pos­si­bil­ity and selected the dose some­what con­ser­v­a­tively. I do plan to have serum 25 hydroxy vit­a­min D tested after 3 months, which appears to be the pro­ce­dure rec­om­mended by docs who are in favor of this sup­ple­men­ta­tion regimen.

      In the mean­time, I’ll enjoy my improved vision.

  2. Michael says

    I have been deal­ing with my own prob­lems with dete­ri­o­rat­ing vision. I just received a spe­cial pair of glasses for paint­ing range after hav­ing a lit­tle go around with the pre­scrip­tion. I had not real­ized how bad my vision had dete­ri­o­rated until I could not pass an eye exam for my driver’s license. Skip­ping ahead, ever since I received dri­ving glasses I have strug­gled with adjust­ing for art. They are for dis­tance and I do not use them around the house yet wear them all day in my day job and when it comes to art­work I have been left with­out the con­trol and flex­i­bil­ity (focus, squint, vary­ing dis­tances, etc.) I require. The paint­ing pre­scrip­tion is not that strong but they help just enough. One prob­lem I have noticed is that the lenses cause depth of field dis­tor­tions. Look­ing at a can­vas with and with­out the glasses I see the dimen­sions change, nar­row­ing at the bot­tom and widen­ing at the top. So I have real­ized they are not a sim­ple swap out for clear vision. I am forced to flip between raw vision and aided vision to main­tain proper per­spec­tive and pro­por­tions. On the other hand, I no longer have to stress my eyes by squint­ing. I just tilt my head back slightly and peer under the glasses. I used to get such headaches from squint­ing. This story ended up long. Lastly, I am try­ing vit­a­min D gel capsules.

    • David says

      Michael,

      Good luck with your vision. I hope you’re under the care of a good ophthalmologist.

  3. jenna says

    I am in nurs­ing school and have learned a lot about eye prob­lems, esp mac­u­lar degen­er­a­tion, cataracts, glau­coma. You (and I) are at the age where we should be more agres­sive about pre­ven­tion of these eye dis­eases that mostly affect the elderly. You are prob more likely to get one of these dis­eases than you are can­cer, and tho not life threat­en­ing, they cer­tainly would and could lead to blind­ness. Surgery is done for cataracts and I think glau­coma, but there is no med­ical treat­ment for mac degen­er­a­tion. My mom is in the begin­ning stages of it now, so I have done some research. As an artist, I would be dev­as­tated to not be able to con­tinue to draw and paint into my later adult years.

    Just this week I had a patient with MD, and the dr pre­scribed vit­a­mins and antiox­i­dants, to be specific:

    Vit­a­min C Vit­a­min E
    Beta-carotene
    Zinc
    Cop­per (2 mg per day, to pre­vent cop­per defi­ciency that can occur when tak­ing extra zinc)

    also, many stud­ies have found Lutein and zeax­an­thin at high lev­els in the blood, these two caroti­noids may help pro­tect against MD, either by act­ing as antiox­i­dants or by pro­tect­ing the mac­ula from dam­age from light. Egg yolks, spinach and corn have high con­cen­tra­tions of lutein and zeaxanthin.

    MD. Also, the good old Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) are good for the eyes as well.

    I guess I have to say that I am not a doc­tor and am not giv­ing med­ical advice. Obvi­ously you should check with your dr before tak­ing vit­a­mins, esp in high doses, but eat­ing well goes a long way towards good health and pro­tect­ing your eye­sight and body against many dis­eases, espe­cially if you are a smoker or tanner -.

    • David says

      Jenna,

      Thanks for the info. No one, of course, should be tak­ing med­ical advice from me. Heck, I don’t think any­one should take art advice from me with­out mea­sur­ing against their own experience.

      I agree on leafy greens. I also think that grass fed meats are extremely healthy for omniv­o­rous homo sapi­ens to eat.

      See the blog of Kurt Har­ris, M.D.: http://​www​.pale​onu​.com

  4. Michael says

    David,

    Which form of vit­a­min D are you taking?

  5. Michael says

    …as in D2 or D3?

    • David says

      Michael,

      D3 (chole­cal­cif­erol). D2 is, so far as I can tell, not par­tic­u­larly use­ful for sup­ple­men­ta­tion. Your body pro­duces pri­mar­ily D3 when it gets suf­fi­cient sun exposure.

  6. Nancy Butler says

    I found tak­ing the sup­ple­ment made me dizzy– go fig­ure. Tried it 3 times, same effect. How­ever I am now tak­ing Cod Liver Oil, a safe brand hope­fully, and while both vit­a­mins A & D can build up, the dose I’m at is quite low.

    Again the con­cern is with visual changes (and with get­ting Omega 3’s and cold/flu pro­tec­tion). Hop­ing that the tried and true cod liver oil will work as well as the sup­ple­ments alone.

    • David says

      Nancy,

      Every­one is dif­fer­ent and you should do what works for you. The best way to get D is, of course, is sunshine.

      Cod liver oil is good stuff, as our great grand­par­ents knew (and our grand­par­ents hated).

      • Nancy Butler says

        Yeah I remem­ber as a child on the prairies being quasi force-fed cod liver oil, boy was that a chore.

        Now that I’m in Van­cou­ver BC, a tem­per­ate rain for­est, sun­shine is really at a pre­mium. Why can’t we live for­ever? Or at least really really health­ily until 100 or so, then peacefully….(can’t even say it, that’s pretty chicken!)

  7. Tracy says

    Thanks David and Jenna for the info. I’m 39 y/o and already my eye­sight started dete­ri­o­ra­tion. I’m a hob­by­ist painter, and work on a com­puter for 12 hours/day… I was hop­ing to “get on my paint­ing” when I retire or some­thing, but now I’m a lit­tle wor­ried. I know that direct sun­light is great for vit D, but I sup­pose I should start tak­ing the sup­ple­ment my mom does…

    thanks for open­ing my eyes (lit­er­ally) Tracy

  8. Kris says

    I’m 50 and I had sim­i­lar fluc­tu­a­tions at your age. Not as much now, but some­what. Hap­pened with­out tak­ing the vD. Pretty nor­mal to go back and forth for long peri­ods of time, even months. The lens is more of the prob­lem, not the cornea. It becomes denser and even­tu­ally, over much time, can become a cataract. The mus­cles that work the lens and bring things into focus have a more dif­fi­cult time work­ing with the chang­ing struc­ture of the lens.
    As we become less able to focus at dif­fer­ent lengths, glasses become our friends help­ing the light rays (from dif­fer­ent dis­tances) focus on our reti­nas. When you are fit for glasses, you need to decide what 2nd or third dis­tance you want for things like paint­ing. Mea­sure the dis­tance between you and your paint­ings and be sure to let the doc fit­ting you know…. and this rx will also change with time. I have been more suc­cess­ful with a proper fit­ting with Oph­thal­mol­o­gists that have been through the process themselves =)

  9. Michael says

    David,

    Have you had your serum 25 hydroxy vit­a­min D tested?

    Have you main­tained the 6000iu or made any adjustments?

    • David says

      Michael,

      I’ve cut down some­what on days in which I get a lot of nat­ural sun­light. I’ll be get­ting a checkup with blood lev­els later this month.

      Other than that, no changes. Vision improve­ment is maintaining.

    • David says

      Pam,

      Thanks for the link. Obvi­ously, I’m not sur­prised at these results.

      It seems as if the insis­tence by most der­ma­tol­o­gists that any amount of direct sun­light is deadly has had very bad consequences.

  10. Nancy C says

    David,

    I found your thread and com­ment on Vit­a­min D, paint­ing and eye­sight dete­ri­o­rat­ing. I paint pro­fes­sion­ally. I have had com­plete loss of eye­sight in my left eye as a reac­tion to med­i­cine that I must take and there is no sub­sti­tute. After the reac­tion, I am vir­tu­ally blind in my left eye and grad­u­ally get some vision back. But each time there is resid­ual latent dam­age and my left eye gets a lower vision thresh­old. It has been upset­ting, depress­ing and of course leaves me in fear of being blind in the one eye and then the other pos­si­bly at a later date.

    I have been under care of a superb retina spe­cial­ist, have no dia­betes or other eye related dis­eases. I approached the retina spe­cial­ist about try­ing “sup­ple­ments” to improve my eye­sight. He looked at me and said I could “try” but don’t get my hopes up. My reg­u­lar eye spe­cial­ist told me to get used to liv­ing with sight in only one eye. “Lots of peo­ple do”.

    I am aware of the thresh­old lim­its doc­tors rec­om­mend on Vit­a­min D, and after read­ing your post I thought -“What do I have to lose?”.

    It is too early to report astound­ing results. But to me, they are astound­ing. A por­tion of my eye­sight in my left eye has improved, I would say a 50% improve­ment. It still has a long way to go, and may never improve a 100% to the vision level of my right eye. But I can tell you for the first time in seven years I am hope­ful. I can­not tell you how your ran­dom com­ment and rec­om­men­da­tion has impacted me. I thank you for shar­ing your expe­ri­ence. With­out it, I would not be shar­ing mine. By the way, I am on the sec­ond month of tak­ing 8000 units per day for a total of 56,000 per week. I plan on con­tin­u­ing until the 3 month mark and will revisit my plan. My BFF when recov­er­ing from can­cer was put on 50,000 units per week and she saw a dra­matic improve­ment in her eye­sight that had been dam­aged from the chemother­apy. Until your com­ment I never really con­nected it with her vit­a­min D ther­apy. Now I do.

    Thank you for tak­ing the time to share your experience.

    In grat­i­tude, Nancy Carroll

  11. Jane says

    I have to tell you that our diet these days is not per­fect. We do lack cer­tain vit­a­mins that affect our eye­sight and vit­a­min D is one of the essen­tial ones.

    I need to tell you that the best way to get it would be to allow the sun­shine to shine on your skin and your eyes. the prob­lem could be your geo­graph­i­cal loca­tion and if it is the case, than yes, you would be bet­ter off with the supplementation.

    Please, do not for­get about the inac­tiv­ity, which also is the key fac­tor to los­ing your eye­sight. If you are pro­fes­sional artis you prob­a­bly stand or sit string all day long. I would sug­gest you to do some kind of stretch­ing when you fin­ish your paint­ing. Another recomen­da­tion would be to push your­self to blink every 5 sec­onds. Do not worry, you have to push your­self to do it only in the begin­ning and then it will become your sec­ond nature. Blink­ing does won­der to the eyes. It lubri­cates them, cleanses and relaxes all of the eye mus­cles at the same time.

    Sin­cerely Jane Kabarguina



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