Glaucoma is the second leading cause of irreversible blindness throughout the world, and the leading cause of blindness in the U.S. with 3 million Americans affected by this illness. It can be treated with eye drops, medication, or surgery, but a new study suggests a much easier and more natural option: vitamin B3. According to the research, when vitamin B3 was added to drinking water, mice genetically predisposed to glaucoma did not develop the condition. Researchers hope that if the same is true for humans, this could provide a safe and cheap new alternative to treating this common eye condition.

The study found that vitamin B3 prevented mice predisposed for glaucoma from developing the condition because it boosted the metabolic reliability of aging eye cells: In essence, keeping them healthier for longer. What’s more, even though the vitamin was administered to the mice via their drinking water, the team believes a single gene-therapy injection to the eye could bring about the same results. This may be easier for elderly patients, who often have trouble remembering to take their medication on a daily basis.

Read: Microneedles For Glaucoma Deliver Drugs Straight Into The Eye

Currently, even with treatment, about 15 percent of individuals with glaucoma will become blind in at least one eye within 20 years of the first symptoms appearing, The Mayo Clinic reported.

And although there ways from slowing the progress of glaucoma, once vision is lost, it can not be recovered.

Common symptoms of glaucoma include patchy spots in your vision, severe headaches, eye pain, nausea and vomiting, blurred vision, eye redness, halos around light, and in late stages tunnel vision. In order to catch glaucoma in its earliest stages, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends glaucoma screenings every four years after age 40 and every two years after age 60.

The new finding proposes a way to keep the cells in the eyes from becoming worn down, and in turn becoming predisposed to developing glaucoma. The team is now looking to enter clinical trials to test the effectiveness of vitamin B treatment in glaucoma patients, hoping to repeat the results they found in mice.

Source: Williams PA, Harder JM, Foxworth NE, et al. Vitamin B3 modulates mitochondrial vulnerability and prevents glaucoma in aged mice. Science. 2017

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