The macula is made up of densely packed light-sensitive cells that are responsible for color vision, as well as our ability to see varying shades of gray. These cells are responsible for focusing vision and control our capability to see fine details, which includes our ability to distinguish faces and read text. Macular degeneration is characterized by the deterioration of the central portion of the retina (the inside back layer of the eye that captures the images we see and sends them via the optic nerve from the eye to the brain).
Found to be the leading cause of blindness, macular degeneration is an incurable eye disease. As people age the probability of developing macular degeneration increases considerably, affecting many individuals in their 60s and 70s. This progressive disorder causes a gradual loss of central vision.
Individuals with this condition may first need more light when doing up-close work. Tasks such as reading the newspaper or distinguishing street signs may also become impaired. They may also notice a blurring of central vision. Where it is often the most apparent is when performing visually detailed tasks. Individuals with this disorder may also find it difficult to focus on straight lines, with the lines appearing slightly warped or distorted. As the disease progresses, blind spots form within the central vision, while peripheral vision is left unaffected.
There are two different types of macular degeneration, dry macular degeneration and wet. Both develop gradually and painlessly, but the signs and symptoms experienced vary depending on which form you have. Most people suffer from dry macular degeneration, which may initially affect only one eye, but in most cases, both eyes eventually become involved. Wet macular degeneration only accounts for about 15 percent of all cases, but it is responsible for the greatest vision loss experienced.
Factors that contribute to the development of macular degeneration include: age, having a family history of macular degeneration, cigarette smoking, obesity, exposure to sunlight and low levels of certain vitamins and minerals. This disorder, while it can affect everyone, is most often seen in Caucasians over the age of 75, women and individuals with light colored eyes.
Recommendations for wellness
- When outside, always protect your eyes with sunglasses that have UV protection.
- Quit smoking and start exercising. Smoking negatively affects the body’s circulation which can then decrease the efficiency of the retinal blood vessels, while exercise improves overall health and blood flow.
- Incorporate dark leafy green vegetables such as spinach, collard greens and kale into your diet.
- Reduce your consumption of saturated fats and keep your cholesterol levels under control. Preliminary studies have shown that they can be associated with an increased risk of developing macular degeneration.
- Take a high quality multi-vitamin and mineral supplement.
- The most prominent herbal remedies for eye protection is bilberry. Bilberry can be taken to build and strengthen the capillary walls in the eyes and plays an important role in the prevention of macular degeneration.
- Similar to bilberry, Nature’s Sunshine’s Grapine High Potency cross the blood-brain barrier to neutralize free radicals in vital brain and nerve tissues.
- Grape seed extract and ginkgo biloba can help to reduce the progression of this disorder, especially in the early stages. Both have antioxidant properties and can be used to promote blood flow.
- Sunlight triggers oxidative damage in the eye, which can cause macular degeneration. Lutein and lycopene have been shown to help protect the retina from damage caused by sunlight and can be found in a product such as Nature’s Sunshine’s Perfect Eyes.
- Zinc has been show to help reduce the deterioration of tissues in the eyes.