Top Tips to Treat and Prevent Macular Degeneration

By: Raymond Lee

When we look at something, we sharp detail in the center of our field of vision. Toward the periphery, the image becomes less distinct. This way of seeing reflects the way the image appears on the retina. The cone-rich part of the retina that handles fine detail in the center of the field of vision is called macula. Sometimes damage occurs to this part of the eye, causing the cells to lose their ability to perceive light. This condition is known as macula degeneration. It appears that free-radical damage is one culprit, but a decreased supply of blood and oxygen to the retina also may be involved. Major risk factors include smoking, atherosclerosis, and high blood pressure. More than 150,000 Americans suffer from the condition, and the number of cases will rise as the population ages.

There are two kinds of macular degeneration. The "wet" form involves growth of abnormal blood vessels. Laser surgery is often recommended to stop the growth. The "dry" form is more common, affecting perhaps nine out of ten people with macular degeneration. This form occurs when cellular debris, called lipofuscin, accumulates in retinal tissue and disrupts the cone cells.

There is no known treatment for dry macular degeneration. A tune-up, however, may help you prevent the condition. The strategy is twofold: increase antioxidants and prevent hardening of the arteries. Both of these methods depend on a healthy diet. The macula is a yellowish tissue. Its color comes from high concentration of yellow pigments, especially lutein, zeaxanthin, and lycopene. These pigments are carotenes, but the body does not convert them into vitamin A. They function to prevent oxidative damage to the retina, and they play a key role in preventing macular degeneration. Increasing your levels of lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin can play a central role in protecting against the development of macular degeneration. Although lycopene and lutein supplements are entering the marketplace, they are relatively expensive, especially when you compare them with food sources. In short, it looks as though the cheapest and healthiest way to boost lycopene levels is through diet. Foods rich in the important carotenes for the eye will also be high in vitamin C and other antioxidants.

Zinc plays an essential role in retinal function. Some, but not all studies report that elderly persons taking zinc supplements have a lower rate of vision loss than those who do not. Flavonoid-rich extracts improve eye function and are known to prevent macular degeneration. In my opinion, bilberry, Ginkgo biloba, and grape seed extracts are completely interchangeable in this application.

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