The macula is the part of the eye that allows us to see detail in the center of our vision field. When the macula breaks down or is damaged, fine work like reading, sewing, and painting becomes difficult or impossible. Small objects-stitches on fabric, for example, or type on a page-may look wavy or bent, and there may be dark spots over the item you're trying to see. This visual impairment begins at the center of the vision and, if not halted, will slowly expand toward the periphery. In the United States, macular degeneration is the leading cause of serious visual impairment in people over fifty-five, and in those sixty-five and older, it is the second-highest cause of blindness, next only to cataracts. There are two kinds of macular degeneration: atrophic (or "dry") and neovascular ("wet"). Atrophic is by far the more common of the two and accounts for 80 to 95 percent of all cases. Although its effects usually don't show until a relatively advanced age, atrophic macular degeneration happens over a lifetime, as cellular debris gradually accumulates under the retina. No one knows exactly why this debris builds up, but it is thought that damage by free radicals (the unbalanced molecules that damage cells), along with inadequate supplies of blood and oxygen to the macula, plays a significant role. Although no conventional treatment exists, many alternative therapies can halt and possibly reverse the retinal damage by fighting free radicals and improving circulation.
Neovascular macular degeneration isn't actually degeneration at all. Instead, it is caused by an abnormal growth of blood vessels under the retina. If these blood vessels leak, the fluid can scar the macula and impair central, detailed vision. Unlike atrophic degeneration, this form of the disease can frequently be reversed with laser treatment, as long as it's caught early enough. It can often be prevented altogether, with the same alternative therapies used to treat atrophic degeneration.
Major conventional risk factors for macular degeneration include smoking, atherosclerosis, aging, and high blood pressure. Research in recent years has proven that diet is a critical element in the prevention of this disease. A diet that's high in cholesterol and saturated fat appears to increase susceptibility, while a diet that's rich in fruits, vegetables, and fish is protective. Carotenoids, found in fruits and particularly in vegetables, are quite protective antioxidants against macular damage from sunlight. A holistic approach also considers the role of inefficient digestion and absorption, which can contribute to mineral deficiencies that play a role in this disease. Also, toxic metals can increase free radical damage of the macula and the eye and should be dealt with, if a problem. Finally, several nutritional supplements, especially minerals and carotenoids, have proven to be effective in the prevention and the treatment of macular degeneration.
If you experience any kind of blurred vision, do not attempt to diagnose yourself. See a physician or an eye doctor to rule out an underlying disorder; if you do have macular degeneration, your doctor should run a test to discover whether you are affected by the atrophic or neovascular form. And since both kinds of macular degeneration-as well as many other eye problems-can be detected by a doctor long before the symptoms appear, you should always have regular eye exams, especially if you're age fifty-five or older.
** All of these prescriptions below have been proven effective; level of effectiveness depends on the individual. Please consult your doctor when taking any and all supplements.
The top 7 vitamins and supplements shown to help Macular
Prescription for Natural
Cures by James F. Balch, M.D. and Mark Stengler, N.M.D.
|Super Prescription #1 Lutein - LifeSource Product Take 20 mg daily with a meal. It prevents oxidative damage of the macula. Also see Lycopene.
|Super Prescription #2 Lycopene - LifeSource Product Take 10 mg daily with a meal. It prevents oxidative damage of the macula.
|Super Prescription #3 Betaine hydrochloride Take 1 to 3 capsules with each meal or as directed by a health-care professional. This supplement increases stomach acid for the improved absorption of nutrients, especially minerals.
|Super Prescription #4 Zinc - LifeSource Product Take 45 mg daily, along with 2 mg of copper. Zinc is required for proper vision and is an antioxidant, which was shown in studies to help macular degeneration.
|Super Prescription #5 Ginkgo Biloba - LifeSource Products Take 120 mg twice daily of a product standardized to 24 percent flavone glycosides. Ginkgo improves circulation and has potent antioxidant effects. One study found it helpful for early-stage macular degeneration.
|Super Prescription # 6 Bilberry (Vaccimium myrtillus) - LifeSource Product Take 240 to 600 mg a day of a standardized formula containing 25 percent anthocyanosides. This herb contains flavonoids-phytochemicals that protect the eyes against oxidative damage. It also strengthens the capillaries and the connective tissues of the eye.
|Super Prescription #7 Multivitamin – High Potency – LifeSource Products - See All of our Multivitamin Products. Take a high-potency multivitamin. It provides a base of antioxidants and nutrients for eye health. Whole food based multi's are a must.
|Super Prescription #8 Vision Formula - LifeSource Products - Our Top Seller LifeSource's Proprietary blend is a full range of antioxidant nutrients which may aid in maintaining visual functions and complete eye health. Take as directed on the container.
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- Blurring, distortion, or dark spots at the center of the vision field, especially when looking at detail
Anything that causes free radical damage or poor circulation can contribute to macular degeneration, including the following:
- A diet that's low in antioxidants, which fight free radical damage
- Arteriosclerosis (hardening of arteries)
- High blood pressure
- Exposure to ultraviolet light
- Environmental toxins (particularly toxic metals)
- Poor digestion and detoxification
- Nutritional deficiencies
If you have arteriosclerosis or high blood pressure, see the relevant entry for additional dietary recommendations. Reducing the blockage or the pressure in your arteries will also improve the circulation of blood and oxygen to your eyes.
Keep toxins moving quickly through your body by eating plenty of fiber, especially whole grains and beans.
Water will also help flush away toxins and keep the eye tissues supple. Drink a glass of clean water every two waking hours.
Consume your carotenoids, which are fruits and vegetables that fight free radicals. Good sources include dark leafy greens, spinach, collard greens, kale, bell peppers (all colors), yellow squash, carrots, tomatoes, celery, oranges, red grapes, mangoes, and melons.
Vitamin C and bioflavonoids work together against free radicals; they also strengthen the capillaries and the tissues of the eye. Eat red, blue, and purple fruits and vegetables-berries, cherries, tomatoes, and plums-for bioflavonoids, and enjoy citrus fruits as a source of vitamin C.
Foods to Avoid
Stay far away from foods that contain free radicals. Fats that are saturated, hydrogenated, or partially hydrogenated are the worst offenders in the American diet, but caffeine, sugar, alcohol, and charred or grilled meats are also sources of these disease-causing molecules.
- Fish oil contains DHA, which is concentrated in the retina of the eye. The consumption of fish has been shown to reduce the risk of macular degeneration. Take a fish oil product containing 1,000 mg of DHA daily.
- Vitamin E-complex acts as an antioxidant and has been shown to improve vision in people with age-related macular degeneration. Take 400 IU daily with a meal.
- A mixed carotenoid complex contains a blend of carotenoids that protects against ultraviolet light damage. Take 25,000 IU twice daily.
- Digestive enzymes improve digestion and absorption. Take a full-spectrum complex with each meal.
- Grape seed extract or maritime pine bark extract scavenges free radicals from the eye and the brain and improves circulation. Take 150 to 300 mg daily.
- Taurine is an amino acid that is believed to protect the retina from ultraviolet light damage. Take 500 mg twice daily on an empty stomach.
- Smoking is a potent way to deliver free radicals to your body. If you smoke, stop. If you don't, protect yourself from secondhand smoke.
- Regular, moderate exercise will help keep your blood flowing properly to the eyes.
- Protect your eyes from the sun. In bright light, wear sunglasses that filter out 98 percent of the ultraviolet spectrum.
- For advanced cases of macular degeneration, consider a nutrition-oriented doctor who uses intravenous vitamin and mineral therapy.
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*Disclaimer: None of the above statements have been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. As always, consult your physician before taking any and all supplements. LifeSource Vitamins. Individual results may vary.
Disclaimer: All the information contained throughout this website is based upon the opinion of the founder of LifeSource Vitamins, Bruce Brightman, and the entire team at LifeSource Vitamins whose relentless research and studies have been ongoing on since 1992. Other articles and information are based on the opinions of the authors, who retains the copyright as marked on the article. The information on this site is not intended to replace your health care professional, but to enhance your relationship with them. Doing your own studying and research and taking your health care into your own hands is always best, especially in partnership with your health care professional. If you are pregnant, nursing, taking medications, or have any medical conditions, always consult your health care professional before taking supplements based on the information on this site.