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Age-Related Macular Degeneration

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Question: I read an article recently on Age-Related Macular Degeneration? What is it and how can I protect against it?

BY Rebecca Laske 16 September, 2008 – 09:26

Answer: Age-Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD) is the leading cause of blindness among the elderly, which according to recent studies, affects over 300,000 people in the UK alone.

The macula is a portion of the retina in the back of the eye responsible for our most acute and detailed vision, needed for activities such as reading and driving.

Although the exact causes of Macular Degeneration are still unknown, it does appear to be age-related and tends to affect older people.

People in their 50s are estimated to have a 2% chance of getting ARMD, rising to almost 50% at the age of 75.

Symptoms can include a slow or sudden painless loss of vision and/or changes in colour perception. Some early signs are distorted or fuzzy vision or black spots in your central vision. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should consult their GP or optician.

However, it’s not all bad news! Some lifestyle changes and nutritional supplements can improve the general condition of your eyes.

Smoking in particular has been linked to poor sight, so seriously think about giving up if you do smoke and try to avoid any type of exposure to tobacco smoke.

Similarly, very bright light such as sunlight or its reflection in the sea has been shown to cause oxidative damage (microscopic tissue damage) in the eye, which in turn can lead to macular degeneration.

Special sunglasses that block out the blue light from the sun may decrease the progress of the disease.

Anti-oxidants can also prevent oxidative damage. Scientific research has shown that people with high levels of anti-oxidants in their blood have a lower incidence of vision problems.

Nutritional supplements could include Selenium and Pycnogenol, both of which are powerful anti-oxidants.

Beta-carotene and vitamin C, found in fresh fruits and vegetables and Lutein, found in Spinach and Kale, also have strong anti-oxidant properties and Bilberry has been shown to strengthen capillaries and reduce haemorrhaging in the retina.

Finally, Zinc too is important for eye health and is found in high concentrations in the retina, especially the macula. However, many people, especially elderly people, do not consume enough zinc and might want to consider taking a zinc supplement.

If you are at all worried about this age related macular degeneration then you should definitely see your doctor or an opticion.

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