A Bright Future for Eyesight
Eyesight is crucial to our
independence, mobility and quality of life. However, our eyes age right
along with the rest of our bodies and need special care and
consideration for long-term health.
One in four people over 65 have
at least early signs of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and it
is the leading cause of blindness for older adults in the world. AMD is
caused by abnormal blood vessel growth behind the retina or a breakdown
of the light-sensitive cells within the retina. Vision is gradually or
rapidly destroyed, making it very difficult to see objects clearly,
read and drive. The part of the eye that allows you to see fine detail,
the macula, deteriorates when affected by AMD. There is no pain
associated with AMD. Risk factors for AMD are age, genetic markers and
smoking, but researchers have made a connection with our lifestyle
habits as well.
Prevention is possible
Because there is no cure for AMD, prevention and management are the
only options. As we attempt to keep our bodies in shape, we should do
the same with our eyes. Eyes can also benefit from a good diet and
plenty of exercise, and a study of lifestyle habits indicates how true
this really is.
Over 1,300 women were reviewed for their diet, exercise and smoking
habits over a six-year period. Among the women who ate the healthiest,
11 percent had developed AMD compared to 19 percent of women who ate
the worst diets. Of the women who exercised the most, one in 10
developed AMD compared to one in five with low levels of exercise. When
the results were combined and no smoking was considered as well, the
risk decreased more than 70 percent. This is “a particularly profound
lowering of risk,” says study author, Dr. Julie Mares of the University
“Decades of studies…have all established that AMD is, in part a
nutrition-responsive disease,” states Dr. Stuart Richer of the Captain
James Lovell Federal Health Care Facility. “Nutritional choice, smoking
cessation, and cardiovascular conditioning have myriad benefits with
respect to improving blood flow that aids the delivery of nutrients and
removal of waste products from the retina, as well as beneficially
altering blood chemistry,” Richer adds. Therefore, AMD is associated
with cardiovascular health.
A U.S. government clinical trial recently found that a mix of high-dose
antioxidants can slow the progression of AMD by 25 percent if it is in
the intermediate stage. Doctors can now prescribe this mix for
patients. The formula is called the Age-Related Eye Disease Study
Formulation (AREDS Formulation). As described by the National
Eye Institute, the daily dosage amounts in the AREDS formula
** Currently, a study is underway by the National Eye Institute that
may eventually alter this formula. Results have not yet been published.
- 500 milligrams of vitamin C.
- 400 International Units of
- 15 milligrams of
beta-carotene (often labeled as equivalent to 25,000 International
Units of vitamin A).
- 80 milligrams of zinc as zinc
oxide, and two milligrams of copper as cupric oxide. Copper was added
to the AREDS formulation containing zinc to prevent copper deficiency
anemia, a condition associated with high levels of zinc intake.
The AREDS formulation is not a cure for AMD and it will not restore
vision already lost from the disease. However, it may delay the onset
of advanced AMD and help people who are at high risk for developing
advanced AMD keep their vision.
presents itself in two forms: wet and dry.
of wet AMD, also known as advanced AMD:
- Occurs when abnormal blood
vessels behind the retina start to grow under the macula. The new blood
vessels tend to be very fragile and will leak blood and fluid, which
raise the macula from its normal place at the back of the eye.
- Damage to the macula occurs
- Loss of central vision can
- It does not have stages like
- An early symptom of wet AMD
is that straight lines appear wavy.
- Treatments include:
- Laser surgery – A laser
destroys the fragile, leaky blood vessels.
- Photodynamic therapy – A
drug called verteporfin is injected into the arm. It sticks to the
surface of new blood vessels. Next, a light is shined into the eye for
about 90 seconds. The light activates the drug to destroy the new blood
- Injections – Drugs are
injected into the eye (anti-VEGF therapy) to block the development of a
growth factor that causes the new abnormal blood vessels. Multiple
injections are needed, and before each injection, the eye is numbed.
of dry AMD:
- Occurs when the
light-sensitive cells in the macula slowly break down.
- Progresses over three stages
– early, intermediate and advanced.
- Gradually, central vision
becomes blurry and gets worse over time as less and less of the macula
is able to function normally.
- The most common symptom is a
slightly blurred spot in the center of your vision. You may need more
light for reading and have difficulty recognizing faces.
- One of the most common early
signs of dry AMD is drusen. Drusen are yellow deposits under the retina.
- There is no current treatment
for dry AMD.
AMD through a simulator
To get a good view of what AMD looks like through eyes that are
affected by the disease, try this simulator.
Click Here: AMD Simulator
Other eye diseases are
also simulated here.
Source: Eye Care America www.eyecareamerica.org
Catching AMD at the first indication of a problem can help preserve
your eyesight. Because no cure exists for dry AMD, discovery at the
early stages is essential. Doctors usually monitor dry AMD with eye
exams every six to twelve months for the first signs that it is
progressing to the more dangerous wet AMD.
If you notice any changes to your vision, contact your eye care
professional at once for a comprehensive dilated eye exam. Don’t assume
that bad eyesight is just part of the aging process; there may be more
to your altered vision than you realize.
While maintaining a healthy lifestyle has benefits to the overall
condition of your body, consider how important your eyes are to your
daily living and quality of life. Because there is no cure to reverse
the effects of AMD, and often it goes undetected for some time,
prevention by choosing the right diet and exercise plan will go a long
way in keeping your eyes in focus.