Macular Degeneration

What is Macular Degeneration?

The macula is the area of the retina where images are focused. It is the portion of the eye responsible for fine vision. Age-related degeneration of the macula is the leading cause of severe visual loss in the United States in persons aged fifty-five years or older.

Individuals with macular degeneration may experience blurred vision; straight objects may appear distorted or bent; there may be a dark spot near or around the center of the visual field; and while reading parts of words may be missing. People with macular degeneration generally have good peripheral vision; they just can’t see what is directly in front of them.

What causes Macular Degeneration?

The major risk factors for macular degeneration are smoking, aging, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), and high blood pressure. Apparently, the degeneration is a result of free-radical damage, similar to the type of damage that induces cataracts. However, decreased blood and oxygen supply to the retina is the prelude and key factor leading to macular degeneration.

The two most common types of age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) are the atrophic (“dry”) form, by far the more frequent, and the neovascular (“wet”) form. Between eighty and ninety-five percent of people with ARMD have the dry form of the disease. The primary cause of dry ARMD is related to oxidative (free radical) damage to the innermost layer of the retina. Wet ARMD is characterized by the growth of abnormal blood vessels.

What dietary factors are important in Macular Degeneration?

A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is associated with a lowered risk for ARMD. Presumably, this protection is the result of increased intake of antioxidant vitamins and minerals. However, various “non-essential” food components, such as the carotenes lutein, zeaxanthin, and lycopene, along with flavonoids, are proving to be even more significant in protecting against ARMD than traditional nutritional antioxidants, such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and selenium. The macula, especially the central portion (the fovea), owes its yellow color to its high concentration of lutein and zeaxanthin. These yellow carotenes function in preventing oxidative damage to the area of the retina responsible for fine vision and obviously play a central role in protecting against the development of macular degeneration. Focusing on dietary sources of these carotenes, such as green leafy and vibrantly colored vegetables appears to be more practical than looking to supplements. Good green leafy vegetables include those in the cabbage family, such as broccoli, Brussels’s sprouts, cabbages, collards, kale, and mustard and turnip greens. Some beneficial highly colored vegetables include red peppers and tomatoes for their lycopene, and squash, sweet potatoes, carrots for other carotenoids. Bilberries and blueberries are also antioxidant rich foods containing flavonoids that strengthen the macula. Regular consumption of these berries is beneficial for preventing and treating ARMD.

What nutritional supplements should I take for Macular Degeneration?

Foundation Supplements. There are three products from Natural Factors that I think are critical in supporting good health:

  • MultiStart (age and gender specific multiple vitamin and mineral formulas). Follow label instructions.
  • Enriching Greens – a great tasting “greens drink” containing highly concentrated “greens” like chlorella, spirulina, wheat grass juice, barley grass juice, etc., and herbal extracts. Take one serving (one tablespoon) in 8 ounces of water daily.
  • RxOmega-3 Factors – A true pharmaceutical grade fish oil supplement. Take two capsules twice daily.

Lutein supplementation has been shown to be able to halt the progression of ARMD and may also lead to significant improvement in visual function. Take 15-20 mg daily for three months followed by a maintenance dosage of 5-6 mg per day.

Bilberry, Ginkgo biloba, grape seed, or pine bark extract contain powerful antioxidant flavonoids that offer tremendous protection to structures of the eyes. Inclusion of one of these extracts in the treatment of macular degeneration is an absolute must. Take 240 to 320 mg daily.

Ultimate Antioxidant Formula from Natural Factors is a unique formulation of powerful protectors against the cellular damage that underlies the aging process as well as many disease processes including cataracts. What makes this complex the ultimate antioxidant is that because of its unique composition it offers a broader spectrum of protection. Its components are effective in the water and fat soluble components that inside and outside of cells. They also recharge other antioxidants within the body such as glutathione and energize antioxidant enzymes. Take two capsules daily.

How do I know if the recommendations are working?

It is best to get a baseline eye exam and then follow the program for a minimum of six months before getting retested. Success is achieved if the condition has not worsened or if there are signs of improvement.