Macular degeneration (MD) is the leading cause of irreversible vision loss in adults 65 and over. MD is a degenerative disease of the cells in the macula. The macula is the central portion of the retina responsible for helping you see objects straight-ahead. Can you imagine what that is like to be afflicted by this disease? The photo on the left is seen through normal vision; the photo on the right is what a person with advanced macular degeneration sees.
Overall, the national prevalence of macular degeneration (MD) is 2%. However, the risk increases with age and by race/ethnicity. Among white Americans, the risk goes up to 3.8% for ages 75 to 79 then skyrockets to 14% for ages 80 and older making them the largest population with this disease. There are 2 types of macular degeneration: dry MD is more common occurring in 90% of patients while wet MD occurs in 10% of patients. In the early stages of dry MD, patients may notice blurriness. Patients with early wet MD will notice straight lines appearing as crooked or wavy. Over time, dry and wet MD will worsen, resulting in loss of clear vision and then a persistent dark spot in the center of the field of vision (see right photo). Unfortunately, there is no treatment for dry MD. However, in patients with wet MD, patients may respond to laser therapy if the disease was detected early.
What causes macular degeneration?
It is unknown what causes macular degeneration. Small studies have implicated that high oxidative stress can lead to macular degeneration. Oxidative stress is caused by free radicals produced from reactions occurring within the body. Under normal conditions, our bodies can neutralize free radicals, limiting damage to cells including cells in the macula. However, if our bodies are exposed to prolonged sun exposure (patients with light colored eyes are at a higher risk for MD) and smoke (being a smoker increases your risk), our bodies cannot neutralize excess radicals formed, and damage to the cells will occur.
What can you do to prevent macular degeneration?
To prevent macular degeneration, consider if you have any risk factors. Modifiable risk factors include smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, high cholesterol levels, low thyroid levels, and excessive sun exposure to the eyes. If you have one or more risk factors, see your medical doctor. They can prescribe smoking cessation medications, exercise, dietary changes, and medications to normalize blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and thyroid levels. And if you enjoy basking in the sun, try wearing a pair of sunglasses with adequate UV protection. Wear sunglasses that block 99 percent or 100 percent of all UV light or with a label indicating, “UV absorption up to 400nm.”
Dietary changes will include increasing your intake of vegetables, vitamins, and supplements. Vision supplements like Bilberry Lutein with Zeaxanthin are formulated to protect you against macular degeneration. Bilberries are relatives of cranberries and blueberries; the dark pigment of bilberries contains high levels of anti-oxidants. In very small studies, bilberry extracts reduce retinal inflammation. Bilberry Lutein with Zeaxanthin also contains Biolut™ to deliver lutein and zeaxanthin, a proprietary blend of 90% lutein and 2% zeaxanthin. Lutein and zeaxanthin are anti-oxidants found in egg yolks and green leafy vegetables. Since our bodies cannot produce lutein or zeaxanthin, we need to take Bilberry Lutein with Zeaxanthin as a daily supplement or consume vegetables. In 2006, the National Eye Institute launched a large clinical trial demonstrating that participants who took lutein and zeaxanthin daily for 5 years had an amazing 18% reduction in risk of developing macular degeneration compared to those who did not take the combination. Further analysis also revealed that participants who were on a diet low in lutein and zeaxanthin and took the supplement for 5 years experienced a surprising 25% risk reduction compared to non-supplement users.
Now that you have read the clinical studies and feel intrigued by the results, are you ready to see for yourself? Do it for your eyes. Take Bilberry Lutein with Zeaxanthin every day!
About the Author
Dr. Karine Wong has over 12 years of clinical experience as a clinical hospital pharmacist, manager and lecturer. She has taught numerous pharmacotherapy lectures to nurses, medical interns and pharmacy students in Southern California. In 2013, she published Call Me Doctor, her first fiction novel. Currently, she contributes articles on www.rxeconsult.com, a website for healthcare professionals.