For generations, mothers have advised their children to eat their carrots for the sake of their eyes. Indeed, carrots do contain compounds that are vital to vision. But today’s moms and others wanting to eat for eye health should know that eating for better vision is not just about carrots anymore.
Researchers have been homing in on evidence that certain dietary habits may help stave off two common degenerative eye diseases: age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the most common cause of legal blindness and vision impairment in older Americans, and cataract, a condition affecting more than 24 million Americans. What you eat can also help to control blood glucose levels, which is important to reducing the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy, a common eye complication of diabetes.
-- Keep an eye on your vision! Learn about preventive steps and treatments for diabetic retinopathy from retinal specialist Dr. Charles Wykoff. >>
An in-depth look at nutritional strategies for healthy eyes follows, but first it’s helpful to understand a little more about these common eye diseases.
Age-related macular degeneration
According to the National Eye Institute, by 2050 the estimated number of Americans who have AMD will double from 2 million to more than 5 million. The risk of developing AMD rises with age — the condition is rare in people under 60.
The macula of the eye is a tiny region at the center of the retina, the thin tissue that lines the eyeball. Light-sensitive cells in the macula are responsible for sharp vision, the kind needed for everyday activities such as reading, driving, and watching television. Scientists are not sure exactly how the most common form of macular degeneration starts, but over time these cells can break down. In most cases, this breakdown happens slowly, gradually leaving less of the macula to handle light properly. With increasing degeneration, vision can blur and a blind spot can develop in central vision.
In cases of early AMD, there are currently no treatments. Research has explored the benefits of specifically formulated high-dose supplements (see below) for cases of intermediate and late AMD. In cases of advanced AMD there are different therapies such as injections, laser therapies, and photodynamic therapy that may be tried to prevent further vision loss. Smokers, those with a family history of AMD, and Caucasians are at an increased risk for AMD. Whites are more likely to lose their vision from AMD than African-Americans.