Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Eye Health

As we age, our vision suffers from exposure to natural and unnatural elements in our environment, such as bright light, free radicals, cigarette smoke. It is also affected by our genetic disposition for eyesight. Many of the diseases associated with deteriorating vision are age-related. They include macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts, retinopathy and glaucoma.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)is a primary cause of new blindness for people over the age of 65. Macular degeneration is a disease which affects the retina, gradually causing vision loss. A breakdown between the retina and the choroids results in degeneration.

The first symptom of macular degeneration is usually blurred central vision or a large central blind spot. There is no cure, but laser surgery during the early stages of the disease may slow its progression. Risk factors for macular degeneration include advancing age along with genetic predispositions, arteriosclerosis, hypertension and smoking.

Certain vitamins are associated with eye health. For example, it has been suggested that treatment with high levels of antioxidants and other nutrients may slow down or reverse some of the effects of macular degeneration.

Zinc, together with high levels of vitamin E along with an antioxidant index composed of ascorbic acid, vitamin E and beta carotene may have some beneficial effect in the treatment of macular degeneration.

Research has indicated that certain carotenoids lowered the risk of macular degeneration by 43%. Those specific carotenoids are lutein and zeaxanthin. The most dramatic effect was noted with lutein. People taking approximately 6 mg of lutein per day had an amazing 57% lower risk for macular degeneration when compared to those whose consumption was lower (approximately 0.5 mg per day).