AREDS 2 are vitamin supplements that may improve eye health for people with wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD). But AREDS 2 cannot prevent wet AMD.

Eye health matters. By 2050, researchers estimate that the number of people with wet age-related macular degeneration — or wet AMD — will double from 2.07 million to 5.44 million.

That’s why taking steps to slow the progression of this chronic eye disorder that causes blurred vision or blind spots in your visual field is important for people who have been diagnosed with intermediate AMD.

More and more data are emerging about a regimen of vitamin supplements known as AREDS 2 that has the potential to promote eye health and delay the progression of intermediate AMD into late AMD, or an advanced form of the disorder.

The regimen can help slow down vision loss, yet many questions surround exactly how it works and how to use the vitamin supplements. If you’ve been diagnosed with intermediate AMD, or you’re simply looking for natural ways to maintain good eye health, here’s everything you need to know about AREDS 2.

AREDS 2 is a regimen of vitamin supplements that includes a specific combination of vitamin C, vitamin E, copper (cupric oxide), zinc, lutein, and zeaxanthin.

Specific amounts are as follows:

IngredientAmount in AREDS 2
vitamin C500 milligrams (mg)
vitamin E400 IU (international units)
copper (cupric oxide)2 mg
zinc80 mg
lutein10 mg
zeaxanthin2 mg

This specific combination was formulated thanks to clinical trials called the Age-Related Eye Disease Studies (AREDS), which showed that these ingredients in the right amounts were effective at slowing vision loss from AMD.

AREDS 2 vitamin supplements can be purchased without a prescription in various drugstores or through online retailers.

The specific combination of vitamins in AREDS 2 is designed to benefit eye health for people who are in the intermediate or late stages of AMD. If one eye is more impacted and has progressed to wet AMD, the vitamins in AREDS 2 may help slow progression in the other eye.

Vitamin C, for example, can lower the risk of developing cataracts, and can slow the progression of wet AMD and vision loss. Vitamin E, on the other hand, protects cells in the eyes from free radicals, which can break down healthy tissue.

Each ingredient in the AREDS 2 formulation has its own positive impact on eye health, so researchers combined the most effective ones into what’s essentially a “super vitamin” for the eyes.

It’s important to note that these vitamin supplements are not intended for general use. Researchers recommend consulting with your eye care professional to discuss whether they are the right option for you.

Like all other supplements, while AREDS 2 can reduce the risk of disease progression by up to 19 percent and/or vision loss by 25 percent, it does come with some risks.

Some side effects can be attributed to the high levels of vitamins and minerals in the AREDS 2 formula, which can potentially change the way your body digests food. This can result in gastrointestinal issues, like nausea, vomiting, or bloating.

Taking the AREDS 2 regimen might also change the way other medicines work in your body, so it’s important to discuss with your doctor and pharmacist any other medications or supplements you take alongside AREDS 2.

An earlier type of wet AMD regimen known as AREDS was made with beta-carotene, which can increase the risk of lung cancer in people who smoke or used to smoke. AREDS 2, however, is made without beta-carotene, so it’s important to choose the newer AREDS 2 supplements if you decide to use this vitamin regimen.

Currently, no nutritional supplements or combinations of them can prevent wet AMD. So, while AREDS 2 can be a useful tool in slowing the progression of the chronic eye disorder, it won’t be able to prevent wet AMD from developing.

You can also decrease your risk of wet AMD through a number of healthy lifestyle changes, like quitting smoking and eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and fat-rich fish high in omega-3s.

Sun exposure, especially looking directly at the sun, can also contribute to developing wet AMD.

In addition to those vitamins included in the AREDS 2 mix, folate can be extremely helpful for maintaining good eye health and slowing the progression of wet AMD. You can increase your folate intake through a supplement or by eating folate-rich foods like:

  • oranges
  • peanuts
  • black-eyed peas
  • spinach
  • grains

Omega-3 fatty acids can also help maintain eye retina health. Researchers recommend eating fish two to three times a week for its health benefits, preferably:

  • salmon
  • sardine
  • mackerel
  • herring
  • lake trout
  • canned light tuna

If you don’t like or don’t eat fish, you can take an omega-3 supplement or find omega-3s in:

  • flaxseed
  • walnuts
  • canola oil
  • some fortified foods

Vitamin A is another supplement that can boost your eye health. If you’ve ever heard the phrase “eating carrots is good for your eyes,” that’s because they actually are. Carrots are rich in vitamin A, which can slow wet AMD progression.

However, vitamin A, which is also known as beta-carotene, does come with the risks noted above, so it’s important to keep an “eye” on your intake and check with your doctor before taking it.

Nutritional supplements can’t prevent wet AMD, but they can slow its progression if you’ve been diagnosed with an intermediate form of the chronic eye disorder.

The AREDS 2 regimen has been proven to be particularly helpful in maintaining eye health. To learn more about AREDS 2 or to find out if it’s right for you, ask your doctor about the pros and cons of this regimen and other steps to promote good eye health.