Q:Although I tried many homoeopathic remedies for cataract, I did not find a cure, so I gave up and had an operation, which was successful. However, I now have macular degeneration. I am able to get about, such as to town, via a ten minute ride on a bus that stops outside this building. I have to have any small print photocopied and enlarged. I cannot recognise people across the road and I am terrified of going blind, as I have no family or anyone to care for me.
I have been on two types of multi vitamin supplements made expressly for eyes. I also take a tablet of bilberry, eyebright and gingko for eyes as a general eye care. Do you have a remedy for macular degeneration? SM, Swansea....
A:Macular degeneration is considered so much a part of the ageing process that it is often described as 'age related' (AMD). In this condition, the macula an oval shaped depression in the central part of the retina and the part of the eye with the greatest visual acuity as it distinguishes fine detail in the centre of vision begins to deteriorate. Consequently, people with AMD have a blurred or blind spot directly in the centre of vision.
Although no one is really sure why some people develop AMD, connections have been made between the condition and ultraviolet rays. The macula has most concentrated exposure to sunlight, and it is thought that this light exposure causes oxidation and free radical formation, leading to a breakdown in retinal cells. If you have a habit of being outdoors in bright sunlight in summer, it's important to wear a hat and protective sunglasses.
Smoking has also been linked with AMD so, if you smoke, you should attempt to quit as soon as possible.
Other possible culprits include volatile chemicals, such as those in household cleansers. If you use them frequently, replace them with environmentally friendly brands.
Another possible cause rarely considered is the effect of electromagnetic fields on the eyes. New studies have shown that frequent use of computers can adversely affect the retina. It doesn't sound like you are using computers, but you may wish to have your environment tested for high levels of EMFS; you can do so through PowerWatch (01353 778 814).
You are right to be thinking of nutritional supplements to help your condition. The eyes, like the rest of the body, degenerate when they aren't properly nourished and many nutritional supplements have been shown both to prevent macular degeneration and to stop it from advancing.
We know, for instance, that many of the antioxidants vitamins A, C and E, and selenium and zinc can help to prevent AMD. In one survey, people with a higher consumption of fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin A had a lower risk of AMD, even after adjusting for all other variables (Am J Epidemiol, 1988; 128: 700-10). Another study concluded that people with the highest levels of the antioxidants selenium, vitamin C and vitamin E may have a 70 per cent lower risk of developing AMD (Arch Ophthalmol, 1993; 111: 104-9).
It's important to increase your intake of vitamin A rich fruits and vegetables (carrots, pumpkin, squashes, tomatoes) and also foods rich in vitamins C and E. You should also eat copious amounts of foods such as spinach and kale, which contain the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. One study showed that people eating at least 5.8 milligrams of these antioxidants each day decrease their risk of AMD by 57 per cent (JAMA, 1994; 272; 1413-20).