As its name suggests, macular degeneration is a degenerative condition of the macula, the area of the retina responsible for central vision. In some people, it is caused by excessive blood vessel growth and fluid leakage in the retina. This “wet” form, which is often treated with lasers or drugs to retard the growth of the abnormal vessels, is responsible for most macular degeneration–related blindness.
But the majority of people afflicted with macular degeneration have the “dry” type, which is marked by buildup of metabolic waste products in the macula. These lesions interfere with blood flow to the macula and impair function of light-sensitive cells. Dry macular degeneration progresses more slowly and results in less severe vision loss, although over time it can also cause significant impairment. Conventional medicine considers dry macular degeneration to be “untreatable,” but this just isn’t true.
Prevention and Treatment for Macular Degeneration
Eat plenty of leafy greens. Population studies reveal that people who eat an abundance of leafy greens have a reduced risk of macular degeneration. That’s because these vegetables are excellent sources of lutein and zeaxanthin—carotenoids that protect the retina by absorbing harmful wavelengths of light and scavenging free radicals. In one study, individuals who ate the most spinach, kale, collards and other leafy greens had a 43 percent lower risk of developing macular degeneration compared with those who ate the least.
Have fish a few times a week. Omega-3 fatty acids in oily fish have also been shown to protect the retina. Australian researchers followed 2,335 people age 49 or older for five years and found that eating fish once a week lowered risk of early macular degeneration by 40 percent; three weekly servings lowered risk of advanced macular degeneration by 75 percent.
Energize with low-glycemic, healthy carbohydrates. Researchers from Tufts University School of Medicine found that women who ate a high-glycemic diet were more likely to develop early macular degeneration than those who ate more low-glycemic foods.
Supplement with antioxidants and a broad range of phytonutrients. The 10-year Age-Related Eye Disease Study proved that high doses of antioxidants (vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, and zinc) was a significant treatment for advanced macular degeneration and vision loss in patients with early-stage disease. And additional research has highlighted the benefits of a broad range of phytonutrients, including lutein and zeaxanthin. Another study found that postmenopausal women with high Vitamin D levels are at significantly reduced risk of macular degeneration.
Suggested daily doses of eye-nourishing nutrients are 1,000 mg of Vitamin C, 400 IU of Vitamin E, 15,000 IU of beta-carotene, 50–80 mg of zinc, 15 mg of lutein and 2 mg of zeaxanthin. You may need to combine a potent multivitamin with a vision-targeted formula to achieve optimal levels in treatment for macular degeneration.
Consider a course of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT). HBOT involves breathing 100 percent oxygen in a pressurized environment. It works on two fronts in treatment for macular degeneration: It saturates the cells with oxygen to regenerate damaged tissues, and it mobilizes stem cells, which can be transformed into a broad range of cell types. HBOT’s effects on macular degeneration can be dramatic. In one small study, the visual acuity of three patients treated with HBOT doubled, and a fourth patient’s nearly quadrupled.
Some age-related vision changes are to be expected. Virtually all of us will require reading glasses at some point in our lives. Macular degeneration, however, is not inevitable. It’s never too early to be proactive about your vision, especially if you are female, Caucasian, have light-colored eyes, smoke, are obese or have a family history of macular degeneration, all of which place you at increased risk.
Take a hard look at your diet and make appropriate changes, start on a nutritional supplement program geared toward treatment for macular degeneration, and you’ll be well on your way toward a lifetime of better vision.
Now it’s your turn: Do you take supplements targeted at vision health?
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