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Nutrients, Sun Protection and Treatment: Fighting Macular Degeneration

It’s not a news flash: America is getting older. And with that aging, along comes a host of age-related foes to fight. One: age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Chances are you’ll be hearing a lot more about it, because it’s going to affect an estimated three million more Americans in the next 15 years. That’s on top of the 10 million with AMD now. 

Novelist, Stephen King, best known for horror stories, is one of them. He quipped of his 10+-year battle with AMD: “The part of my vision that I want to keep, both as a man and as a writer, is what I can see out of the corners of my eyes!”

All kidding aside, he’s referring to the telltale work of AMD; the loss of central vision. Although few people with AMD ever become totally blind, losing central vision can make basic, independent activities, like reading and driving, much harder. 

AMD affects the macula, the pencil eraser-size part of the retina where precise vision forms. There are so-called dry and wet forms of AMD. Both forms can lead to varying degrees of central vision loss.

Eyecare professionals agree: the single most important thing you can do to detect and help slow AMD is get your annual eye exam. It’s the only way to spot early warning signs. But beyond that, there are choices you can make to help prevent or slow its onset and progression. Nutrients can play a helpful part.

Larry Spitzberg, O.D., Ph.D., practices in Houston, Texas. “A study sponsored by the National Eye Institute shows an important role for Vitamins C and E, vitamin A from beta carotene, lutein and zinc.” And, choose food over supplements as the preferred source for them.

Sunlight exposure is bad for the eyes on all fronts. From cataracts to AMD, the sun damages the eyes just as it does the skin. Wearing UV-blocking sunglasses is a good idea for all ages.

For people fighting the condition now, there are treatment options for the wet form, which is to blame for more severe vision loss. The options range from medications to laser treatments, says Joseph Rappon, O.D. He also looks forward a few years when artificial retinas may be the routine course of treatment. “We’ll be able to implant a tiny microchip in the retina, and this device will help send visual information to the optic nerve and the brain,” he says. “That will be a big breakthrough and have a major impact on AMD patients.”

In the meantime, do healthy things for your eyes, like eat foods high in sight-loving nutrients. Here’s a rundown of eye-friendly foods.

  • Beta-carotene (turned into vitamin A in your body): Dark green, yellow and orange veggies.
  • Lutein: Dark green leafy veggies, like spinach, kale and collard greens.
  • Vitamin C: Citrus fruits, black currants.
  • Vitamin E: Nuts, oil-rich fish like tuna and salmon.
  • Zinc: Beef, pork, lamb, eggs, whole cereals.

Source: VSP