The macula is in the central part of the retina that is used for more detailed vision, so it tends to affect the center of our visual field. As it has the largest concentration of cells, it also needs more oxygen then the rest of the retina. "Age-Related Macular Degeneration" (ARMD) is a degenerative condition of the macula. It is the most common cause of vision loss in the United States in those 50 or older, and increases with age. ARMD is caused by hardening of the arteries that nourish the retina. Fortunately, macular degeneration does not cause total blindness since it does not affect the peripheral vision.
There are 2 types of ARMD. Around 10% of cases are called "wet ARMD," as new, but fragile, blood vessels try to regrow in to support the macula. These fragile new vessels sometimes leak (hence the name "wet") causing rapid vision loss in the center of 1 eye. The other 90% of cases are called "dry ARMD," and these have a very gradual progression.
A number of studies have shown that good nutrition can slow or prevent the development of macular degeneration. For example, it has been proven that people with diets high in fruits and vegetables (especially leafy green vegetables and colorful berries) have a lower incidence of macular degeneration. This is associated with high levels of the nutrient flavonoids, as well as lutein and zeaxanthin (both found in egg yolks), and lycopene (in tomatoes). In fact, those with high levels of these nutrients had only half the risk of ARMD. Fish oils and nuts were also protective. Red wine is protective, but beer can worsen ARMD.
Research suggests that a mix of nutrients is more effective than individual ones for ARMD. I recommend a product called "Ocudyne II" capsules by Nutricology (easily found in many online shops), along with:
Other helpful tips include:
- Bilberry extract (25% extract) 40-80 mg 3x day.
- Zinc 25-50 mg a day.
- Vitamin C 1,000 mg 3x day.
- Vitamin E (must be natural and mixed tocopherols) 600 units/day.
- Selenium 200 mcg a day.
- Ginkgo Biloba (standardized to 24%) 40-80 mg 3x day.
To make reading easier:
- Protect your eyes with sunglasses that have UV protection. Ultraviolet rays are believed to cause damage to the pigment cells in the retina.
- Quit smoking. Smoking worsens circulation to the retinal blood vessels.
For wet ARMD — your eye doctor may recommend laser treatments, which can be added to the treatments above.
- Use a halogen light. These have less glare than standard light bulbs.
- Shine the light directly on your reading material. This improves the contrast and makes the print easier to see.
- Use a hand-held magnifier. A cheap drugstore magnifier can increase the print size dramatically.