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Zinc And Your Eyes

There's a nutrient you may not be getting enough of... and your eyes might be paying the price! Zinc, a mineral best-known for its role in immune health, also has key benefits for eye health. And while a profound, serious deficiency of zinc is rather rare in the United States, many people do not get quite enough of this nutrient. Here's a closer look at the role of zinc in eye health and how you can improve your intake.

Eye-Health Benefits of Zinc

Zinc is used in the liver to produce a pigment called melanin. Melanin is what makes your eyes brown or green. It is also important for protecting your eyes from sun damage. Without enough zinc, your body may not produce enough healthy melanin, which makes your eyes more prone to the many problems that sun exposure can cause. A low zinc intake may, therefore, lead to cataracts, a condition in which the lens of the eye becomes cloudy and opaque. People who do not get enough zinc are also at risk of age-related macular degeneration, or AMD. This condition causes progressively worsening vision and can even lead to blindness when not properly treated.

What are some other signs of zinc deficiency?

A serious deficiency of zinc can cause hair loss, impotence, and loss of appetite. More mild deficiencies may lead to slight immune system impairment, which causes you to become ill with the common cold or the flu more often. Wounds may take longer to heal, and your skin may feel dry or be prone to peeling.

How much zinc do you need?

The amount of zinc you need depends on your sex and age. The Recommended Daily Allowance for zinc is 3 mg for children ages 6 months - 3 years. Children ages 4 - 8 need 5 mg of zinc, and those ages 9 - 13 need 8 mg. Women ages 14 - 18 need 9 mg, and men ages 14 - 18 need 11 mg. Women ages 19 and older need 8 mg, and men ages 19 and older need 11 mg.

How can you get more zinc in your diet?

To get more zinc and enjoy greater eye health, focus on eating more foods that are high in zinc. Good choices include oysters, beef, and crab. Many breakfast cereals are fortified with zinc, and it's also found in nuts and seeds like almonds and chickpeas. 

To learn more, contact a clinic like Northwest Ophthalmology.