Macular Degeneration is one of the most common causes of registered blindness. It is generally considered to be age related, but it has links to high blood pressure, smoking, obesity, diabetes and heart disease. In essence it is a progressive loss of vision due to the development of abnormalities in the macula – which is the centre of the light-sensing cells in the retina.
In fact there are two types of macular degeneration; dry and wet. 90% of people affected have a type known as dry – this is where small, yellow spots called drusen, accumulate underneath the macula and distort central vision. The dry type has a very slow progression and if caught early there are plenty of conventional treatment options to limit the severity of sight loss. 10% present with the wet type which is a result of leaky blood vessels – it is much more pernicious – and can lead to rapid and severe vision loss. Dry can also develop or progress into a wet type.
Both types can first manifest as intermittent blurry vision, graduating to looking through a mist and then into distorted perception and eventually blind spots. If you have any of these symptoms see your ophthalmologist or GP. If you have recently gotten a diagnosis then the items mentioned below will help slow progression and if you are in the risk fact group – high bp, high fat diet, diabetic etc – these will also help lessen the impact of your risks and supply nutrients to the macula and the retina’s own repair mechanisms.
Eye nutrients: A healthy eye is dependent on a few key nutrients; omega 3 fatty acids to keep those smallest blood vessels healthy and flexible, vitamins C and other antioxidants to mop up free radical and other environmental damages and also on a diversity of replenishing plant pigments; notably lutein and zeaxanthin found in orange, yellow and red foods. Add the following to your diet on a regular basis – carrots, squash, sweet corn, sweet potato, pumpkin and also the colorful fruits; mango, papaya, melon, watermelon, oranges etc. Lutein and zeaxanthin are also found in leafy green vegetables such as kale, spinach, broccoli and peas.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are the most prominent carotenoids found in the eye. They act to strengthen and help regenerate the functions of the macula and retina. Supplements containing commercially extracted lutein and zeaxanthin often come from orange-pigmented marigolds . The French type (tagetes spp) are not so easy to use at home but pot marigolds (calendula officinalis) are so easy in a salad or added to a smoothie or infused in some olive oil for a nice dressing. So you can grow your own eye nutrients in your garden.
To get the dietary changes started – it is often easiest to start by improving your lunch. Breakfast routines are routine and often people find it takes time to adjust to dinner changes but a lunch time salad or smoothie is so do-able. So here are three beverages to introduce over the span of your week as an induction to incorporating brighter colours and to get a tasty top up of what your eye will benefit from.
A Bilberry blitz – which supplies anthocyanins to helps improve blood flow and plenty of healthy flavonoids that further help support eye function, circulation and balanced blood pressure. 1 cup of berries to a ¼ cup of pomegranate juice (also potently antioxidant and vitamin C rich). Purple plant pigments improve night vision and ease eyestrain. If you can’t get bilberries then blueberries will also do the trick.
A carotene chaas – an Indian yoghurt drink similar to a lassi- you can avail of mango, carrot, calendula and even a pinch of saffron – all are orange carotenes which the body turns into vitamin A to support vision and cellular repair. Vitamin A is very effective at protecting against photo-oxidation of the lens which can be the start of both wet and dry complaints. 1 cup yogurt to 1/4 cup spice water (saffron and herb allowed to infuse overnight) to a heaped tablespoon each of chopped carrot and chopped mango.
An iced green tea, infused with goji berries – goji is tradition Chinese medicine for eye complaints and a potent antioxidant, the green tea is also a potently antioxidant to help heal any small leaky vessels and address those risk factors.