In my last article I spoke about the effects of harmful blue light on the eyes. Adult onset macular degeneration, or AMD, causes a reduction or loss of central vision, rarely affects the peripheral vision, and can be devastating to a person’s independence. People can no longer drive a car, read standard print books or newspapers, see the beautiful faces of their grandchildren, and in many cases have difficulty walking or navigating their way without help.
A recent article published in Vision Monday on nutrition and the eye offers this information. More than 43 million Americans will develop age-related disease by the year 2020. There are 1.7 million Americans with some form of AMD and approximately 100,000 of them are blind from the disease. Of the 8000 Baby Boomers turning 60 every day, half will develop an age related eye disease.
So what is AMD and what can be done to minimize the chances that you will develop AMD?
Think of AMD as rusting of the retina, the delicate tissue that allows us to see. The retina is like the film in the old style cameras. Our retina’s contain pigment called melanin in one of its many layers. Melanin is protective to the retinal tissue that lies just below it. In many people, this pigment is very thin in the area of the retina called the macula, and offers little protection to the tissue it is meant to protect. If we did not paint or wax our cars, the metal would rust with time. If we did not follow certain dietary guidelines, ignored the use of specialty protective eyeglasses, smoked, and did not care for our diabetes or elevated cholesterol, we would all undoubtedly develop a rusty retina…. AMD
Fortunately, there is now a way to measure the pigment in the retina with a very hi-tech device called a Densitometer. Optometrists in many parts of the country have been using the early generations of the Densitometer for a couple of years. Our practice will be one of the first eye care offices on Long Island to be using the latest and most sophisticated Densitometer to date, as part of our overall patient eye care assessment. The test takes just 2 minutes and tells our doctors if our patients have enough retinal pigment to protect them from harmful blue light. If not, our optometrists will counsel our patients on how to increase this pigment.
To do this, diet is most important. Leafy green vegetables contain 2 important carotenoids………. lutein, and zeazanthin. Lutein is converted in the body to meso-zeazantin. Unfortunately, our bodies cannot convert enough of lutein to meso-zeazanthin which is the most important of them all. Lutein and zeazanthin alone are available in many over-the-counter supplements also containing vitamins C, E, copper and zinc (the AREDS formula). As I just stated, the most important of all 3 carotenoids, meso-zeazathin has not been available in supplement form until now. Our office prescribes MacuHealth, a small one-a-day supplement containing only the 3 carotonoids. This supplement alone has been shown to increase the pigment of the macula, improving the “rust protection”. Patients have reported improved night vision, improvement in vision quality during sports activities, and improvement in overall quality of vision in those people previously diagnosed with early onset macular degeneration.
Other important supplements include Omega3 fatty acids, or fish oil, shown to have multiple benefits from the heart to the skin and on multiple levels, in the eyes.
Eating healthy is important. Supplementing to add another layer of defense for the eyes is equally important for vision protection. Our doctors intensively read the current studies on AMD and attend many lectures discussing eye health. We are attempting to take the confusion about supplements away from our patients and guide them based on those studies indicating the supplements determined to have the most positive effect. For more information, please do not hesitate to contact one of our team of doctors at Optix.
Dr. Joel Kestenbaum
Optix Family Eyecare Center