Vitamin C and Vision: What You Need to Know
Of all vitamins, vitamin C has one of the best reputations. But can it improve vision too?
This antioxidant, often celebrated for its immune system benefits, can promote eye health in more ways than one. It reduces oxidative stress, shields your eyes from UV rays, and prevents age-related eye diseases.
Sounds like an important vitamin for your eye health, doesn’t it? Let’s talk in depth about its vision benefits, food sources, deficiency symptoms, daily dosage, and more.
But first, a word on the discovery of vitamin SEE.
The Story of Vitamin C Discovery
Centuries ago, sailors on long sea voyages often had swollen and bleeding gums, loose teeth, and hemorrhaging under the skin. Known as scurvy, this condition occurs when the body doesn’t get enough vitamin C for at least three months.
Sailors at sea didn’t have access to fresh fruits and vegetables. They had to make do with dry biscuits, salted meats, and other foods that wouldn’t easily spoil.
By the end of the 15th century, scurvy became the major cause of mortality among sailors. But it was only in 1747 that Scottish physician James Lind recommended the consumption of lemon juice to British sailors.
This led to the gradual elimination of scurvy within the British fleet. At the time, no one knew of the existence of vitamin C. But the term “antiscorbutic” came to be used for foods that prevented scurvy.
It took more than a century to pinpoint the exact substance that prevented scurvy. In 1907, Norwegian physicians Axel Holst and Theodor Frölich induced a condition similar to scurvy in guinea pigs through food restrictions.
Later in 1928, Hungarian biochemist Albert Szent-Györgyi isolated and identified vitamin C, and named it “ascorbic”, meaning “anti-scurvy.” His discovery and work with vitamin C were recognized with a Nobel Prize.
Over the years, vitamin C became one of the most popular antioxidants. It not only prevents scurvy, but also repairs body tissues, manages high blood pressure, lowers the risk of heart disease, and keeps your eyes healthy.
What Is Vitamin C?
Ascorbic acid, commonly known as vitamin C, is a water-soluble vitamin. Unlike fat-soluble vitamins, vitamin C doesn’t get stored in your body. Any extra gets excreted via urine.
Our bodies are not able to synthesize their own vitamin C. We must acquire it from dietary sources.
Vitamin C is essential for your overall health and wellness. The vitamin supports your immune function and prevents infection. It also produces collagen, a protein needed to maintain healthy teeth, bones, gums, skin, blood vessels, and of course, eyes.
An overdose of vitamin C is mostly harmless and comes with certain digestive issues. But vitamin C deficiency can cause severe health issues like impaired wound healing, scurvy, and vision problems.
Vitamin C and Vision
Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is an antioxidant powerhouse. It scavenges free radicals in your body, neutralizes them, and prevents them from damaging your tissues.
In doing so, vitamin C reduces oxidative stress and promotes healthy blood vessels throughout your body. This includes the delicate capillaries of the retina.
The result is improved eye health, with a lower risk of cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, and dry eyes. Not to mention, vitamin C shields your eyes from UV damage too.
Vitamin C Eye Health Benefits
So, is Vitamin C good for eyes? You bet! Our eyes need vitamin C just as much as other vision-boosting nutrients, like vitamin A and E, zinc, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Let’s take a closer look at vitamin C and eyesight benefits, from reduced risk of cataracts to improved tear film stability.
Reduces Cataracts Risk
A study suggests that vitamin C can help lower your risk of developing cataracts, a condition that turns your eye lens cloudy and impairs vision. The study is the first to conclude that dietary factors play a larger role than genetics in the formation of cataracts.
The fluids that bathe your eye are rich in vitamin C. This helps stop the lens from oxidizing. When you take in sufficient vitamin C, you increase the amount of this vitamin in the eye fluid, thereby reducing the risk of developing cataracts.
Good to know: Vitamin C is also essential to make collagen, a protein that provides structure to the eyes, particularly in the cornea and sclera.
Prevents Macular Degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a disease that damages your retina over time. This disease may occur as a natural part of aging and affects nearly 30% of people over the age of 75. But that doesn’t mean you can’t prevent or slow down its progression.
When taken with other essential nutrients, vitamin C can also prevent and slow the progression of AMD. It reduces cellular damage to the photoreceptors in the retina by reacting with free radicals and deactivating them. This prevents the deterioration of the macula.
Shields Eyes from UV Damage
Metaphorically speaking, vitamin C acts as a sunscreen for your eyes. It protects the eye from UV-induced retinal damage according to a 2008 study.
Citrus fruits along with fresh vegetables are a refreshing and tasty way to boost your vitamin C intake. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to use your sunglasses for even greater UV protection.
Reduces Oxidative Damage in the Eyes
Oxidative damage occurs when there’s an excess of free radicals in your body. These radicals are unstable and damage your body tissues. This leads to vision-related issues like corneal inflammation, AMD, and cataracts.
One of the key vitamin C functions is to stop the cycle of free radicals and prevent cellular damage. As you age, your body's natural antioxidant production can decline. That's why it's important to ensure that you’re getting enough vitamin C and other antioxidants for eye health.
Alleviates Dry Eyes
Research has associated oxidative stress with dry eye disease. You can blame oxidative stress at least in part for your gritty, sore, and red eyes that water excessively.
Increasing your vitamin C intake can come to your rescue. The antioxidant will help fight free radicals, improve the tear film stability, and reduce inflammation. Soon, you will notice an improvement in your dry eye symptoms.
Foods High in Vitamin C
Vitamin C occurs in many foods, particularly colorful fruits and vegetables. But better consume them raw since cooking may break down the vitamin, causing it to degrade, according to the National Institutes of Health.
What’s more, your body doesn’t make or store vitamin C. So, make sure you add these foods high in vitamin C to your daily diet.
- Chili peppers
- Bell peppers
- Brussels sprouts
Vitamin C Deficiency Symptoms
Vitamin C deficiency is rare due to the availability of fresh produce along with supplements. But it may still occur.
Some common factors for vitamin C deficiency include poor diet, anorexia, alcoholism, smoking, severe mental illness, poor absorption, and dialysis.
Symptoms of vitamin C deficiency can take months to develop. But here are some deficiency symptoms to watch out for.
- Vision loss
- Dry, irritated eyes
- Rough, bumpy skin
- Bent or coiled hair growth
- Bleeding and swollen gums
- Tooth loss
- Bright red hair follicles
- Spoon-shaped nails with red spots or lines
- Dry, damaged skin
- Wounds healing slowly
- Easy bruising
- Swollen, painful joints
- Weak, brittle bones
- Poor immunity
- Fatigue and cranky mood
- Unexplained weight gain
- Chronic inflammation
Vitamin C Toxicity
Vitamin C, even when consumed at high doses, does not usually cause any serious adverse effects. Still, if you take larger-than-normal doses, you may face vitamin C side effects like:
- Stomach cramps
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Digestive distress
How Much Vitamin C Per Day Should I Take?
You can get enough vitamin C through your food. An orange, a cup of chopped red pepper, or a handful of strawberries is enough to meet your daily vitamin C intake.
Here is the recommended dietary allowance for vitamin C according to the Office of Dietary Supplements.
- 0 to 6 months: 40 mg
- 7 to 12 months: 50 mg
- 1 to 3 years: 15 mg
- 4 to 8 years: 25 mg
- 9 to 13 years: 45 mg
- 14 to 18 years: 65 mg for females, 75 mg for males
- 19+ years: 75 mg for females, 90 mg for males
- Pregnant individuals (aged 19+): 85 mg
- Lactating individuals (aged 19+): 120 mg
Good to know: A higher vitamin C consumption is not necessarily better for your vision. That’s because your body flushes out any excess. So, just aim to hit your daily need of vitamin C and you’re good.
Should I Take a Vitamin C Supplement?
Vitamin C supplements are generally unnecessary. That’s because you can easily get the recommended daily dose of this vitamin simply by eating fresh fruits and vegetables. That said, some people may need vitamin C supplementation.
- Smokers or those exposed to secondhand smoke
- People who do not consume a diet rich in fruits and veggies
- People with certain health conditions, like absorption disorder
Important: Before taking vitamin C supplements, talk to your healthcare professional. Too much of anything, including vit C, can be unhealthy.
Trying to keep your eyes healthy and happy? You can take an eye health supplement like SightC.
Packed with antioxidants and phytonutrients from goji berries, turmeric, Cherokee rose, and other plants, SightC helps sustain vision in the digital age. Learn more about SightC.
Spending long hours in front of screens? Screen time can take its toll on your eyes.
Nourish your eyes with Blueberry Gummies. Made with Canadian blueberries, these gummies provide anthocyanins and other antioxidants that prevent oxidative damage and help keep your eyes healthy.
Your eyes require several essential nutrients to stay healthy. And vitamin C ranks high on the list of important nutrients for eyes.
You can easily get your daily dose of vitamin C by consuming fresh fruits and vegetables. But if your diet lacks this vitamin, your doctor may prescribe dietary supplements.
Vitamin C and vision go hand in hand. This vitamin not only keeps your eyes healthy by preventing oxidative stress, but also lowers the risk of cataracts and AMD and shields your eyes from the sun’s harmful UV rays.
So, what are you waiting for? Enjoy a bowl of strawberries or cherries, or blend some fresh veggies into a smoothie to get all the vitamin C you need.