Macular Degeneration

Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss in Australia and New Zealand. It is a progressive disease caused by the deterioration of a part of the retina called the macula.

Symptoms

  • Blurring or loss of central vision
  • Blank or dark spots in vision, especially in central vision
  • Straight lines may appear wavy or distorted
  • Increasing difficulty recognising faces
  • Damage may be significantly progressed before visual disturbances are detected. Diagnosis requires professional eye testing

Causes

  • Although the causes of macular degeneration are not yet fully understood, a number of risk factors may predispose you to the condition. These include:
  • Being female
  • Getting older (risk increases significantly after 50 years of age)
  • Smoking triples the risk of developing macular degeneration and increases its severity
  • Family history
  • Exposure to light and glare
  • Iris colour (people with blue, green and grey eyes are more likely to develop macular degeneration than people with brown eyes)
  • Weight problems
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Eating a diet with a high glycaemic index (GI), and the associated Blood Sugar problems (including diabetes)
  • Many of these issues are associated with increased Free Radical Damage, which compromises the integrity of the blood vessels of the eyes

Nutritional & Herbal Support

  • Take a high potency multivitamin that's specially formulated to contain a powerful combination of antioxidant nutrients, including vitamins A, C and E, and the minerals zinc, copper and selenium
  • Vitamin A supports healthy eye function and vision. It is essential for the normal functioning of the retina, in particular visual adaptation to darkness, and consequently supports night vision. Cod and halibut liver oils are naturally rich sources of vitamin A. Betacarotene is converted into vitamin A by the body, so is also a beneficial source, with additional antioxidant properties
  • Bilberry is a rich source of antioxidant compounds called anthocyanosides, which support the health of the capillaries, and in particular those of the eyes. Population studies suggest that regular consumption of foods containing anthocyanosides may improve visual function. In particular, the anthocyanosides enhance the functioning of the retina and therefore may help the eyes to adapt to variations in light intensity and improve vision in poor light
  • Taking grape seed extract may help to improve the health of the capillaries and other blood vessels, and improve circulation to the eyes
  • Consuming high levels of omega-3 fats from fish appears to help reduce the risk of developing macular degeneration

Diet & Lifestyle advice

  • Any vision disturbance or change in your eyesight requires medical investigation. Regular eye checks are recommended for people over the age of 45
  • Antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, the carotenoids betacarotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, and flavonoids such as anthocyanosides help to protect the blood vessels of the eyes from Free Radical Damage, decreasing your risk of age-related macular degeneration. To ensure your diet includes these important nutrients, eat plenty of fresh leafy vegetables (such as spinach), orange-coloured fruit and vegetables (such as carrots) and berries (such as blueberries)
  • Stick to a low glycaemic index (GI) diet that includes slow-burning carbohydrates (such as oats and legumes) to help you maintain better blood glucose control. At the same time, avoid high GI carbohydrates such as sugars, wheat products (e.g. bread), and potatoes, which are metabolised quickly, leading to blood Sugar fluctuations
  • Omega-3 fats are also important for the blood vessels of the eyes, and eating two or more serves of fish per week may help reduce your risk of developing age-related macular degeneration. Also eat unrefined polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, from nuts, seeds, extra virgin olive oil and avocados
  • If you have weight problems, achieve and maintain a healthy body weight and blood Sugar balance
  • Regular exercise is important for healthy circulation, and may help to reduce your risk of developing macular degeneration. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise (such as brisk walking) on most days of the week
  • Don't smoke - it promotes Free Radical Damage, harms the blood vessels of the eyes, and increases your risk of developing vision problems
  • Protect your eyes from glare by wearing UV-rated sunglasses when outdoors

If symptoms persist consult your healthcare professional. Information provided is of a general nature and should not replace that of your healthcare professional.

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