Natural Ways to Prevent Macular Degeneration
Macular degeneration is a disease that damages the eyes and causes vision loss. It is often referred to as age-related or adult macular degeneration (AMD). It is a common cause of severe visual impairment in Americans, affecting over 15 million people. There is no cure for AMD, and treatment is somewhat limited.The macula is the central part of the retina of the eye that makes it possible to see the fine detail needed for reading, driving, and recognizing faces. AMD causes the macula to malfunction or deteriorate. The result is loss of sight in the center of the visual field.
Risk FactorsAlthough the cause of AMD is unknown, it is thought to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. AMD is more common in women, and those who are older. Other factors that may increase your risk of developing AMD include:
- Family history of AMD
- Asian or Caucasian race
- Excessive exposure to sunlight
- Current or former smoker
- Blood vessel damage or health conditions that interfere with blood circulation
Nutritional SupplementsNutritional supplements have been the focus of much research on the prevention of AMD. Antioxidants are thought to protect cells, in the eye and elsewhere, from free radical damage. High levels of antioxidants are found naturally in fruits and vegetables, as well as in other foods, such as egg yolks, nuts, grains, and some meats. They can also be concentrated in supplements.Though the benefits of supplementation are often extolled in the media, clinical studies have had inconsistent results. While some studies reveal a link between higher levels of antioxidants and lower risk of AMD, many do not.A recent review of over 62,000 people in 4 large studies showed that the use of vitamin E, beta-carotene, vitamin C, lutein, zinc, selenium, or zeaxanthin doesn't prevent or delay the development of AMD. However, a more promising review of over 6,100 people with AMD in 13 studies, showed that the same supplements may delay the progression of the disease. Depending on the study, supplements were taken individually or together.In the bigger picture, it is difficult to tell how the supplements work across different populations. Taking supplements can also have harmful effects, especially if you take other medications. If you want to take supplements for AMD or any other reason, talk to your doctor before starting them.
Living a Healthy LifestyleAlthough evidence relating supplements, diet, and AMD is mixed, it is always best to strive to live a healthy lifestyle. Here are some ways to boost your eye health:
American Macular Degeneration Foundation
Macular Degeneration Partnership
Canadian Ophthalmological Society
The College of Family Physicians of Canada
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3/6/2013 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us: Sui GY, Liu GC, Liu GY, et al. Is sunlight exposure a risk factor for age-related macular degeneration: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Ophthalmol. 2012 Nov 10. [Epub ahead of print].
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 11/2013
- Update Date: 11/18/2013