by: Dr. Craig A. Maxwell
Imagine no longer being able to read to your grandchildren or watch your favorite television shows? Degenerative eye disease is a serious concern for individuals entering their middle to senior years. The two most common eye diseases, cataracts and macular degeneration, are often preventable if you understand the hidden causes behind them.
The Two Most Common Eye Diseases
The two most common age-related eye diseases are cataracts and macular degeneration.
Let’s take a closer look at the signs, symptoms, and causes of each:
When you develop cataracts, the lens that allows light to hit the back of your eye becomes clouded over, making it harder and harder for you to see images. I often compare it to looking out a foggy, or dirty, window. At first, only your long-distance vision is affected and you may not realize anything is happening. Eventually, however, you’ll need stronger and stronger glasses to perform everyday tasks.
As you get older, you are at increased risk for developing the following types of cataracts:
- Subcapsular Cataract – This type of cataract occurs at the back of the lens and may occur if you are diabetic or taking steroid medications.
- Nuclear Cataract – Nuclear cataracts occur at the center of the lens and are common with age.
- Cortical Cataract – This is the most common form of age-related cataract. Opacities develop in the lower portion of the lens and work their way to the center.
Cataracts are caused by a combination of factors. As you age, your lenses aren’t as flexible. They become thicker and more opaque, causing a breakdown of tissues that clump together and interfere with normal vision. If your doctor has prescribed corticosteroids for chronic pain or diuretics for hypertension or lymphedema, you are at increased risk for the development of this common age-related eye disease.
Cataracts can also develop after an injury to the eye. These types of cataracts are called “traumatic cataracts.”
Oxidative distress is often overlooked, but it is a very strong contributing factor in the development of serious eye disease. Free radicals from cigarette smoking (including second-hand smoke), air pollution, heavy alcohol consumption, diabetes, obesity and poor diet take a toll on your overall health and wellbeing…including your eyes.
These toxins often attack your eyes first due to their vulnerability and delicate make-up.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss for Americans age 60 and older. This disease destroys your macula, a highly pigmented yellow spot near the center of the retina, which affects your central vision.
There are two types of macular degeneration: wet and dry. Wet macular degeneration occurs quickly and is caused by your blood vessels leaking fluid or blood into your macula. It’s first symptom is blurry vision.
Dry AMD is more common and occurs when the light-sensitive cells at the center of your eyes begin to break down. The first tell-tale sign is when straight lines start to appear crooked.
Common symptoms of both wet and dry macular degeneration include changes in ability to differentiate colors, blurry central vision, shadows or missing areas of vision, drastic visual acuity reduction, and slow recovery of vision function after exposure to bright light.
Smoking, excessively high blood pressure, family history, race (more common in caucasians) and oxidative stress are common causes of macular degeneration. A recent European study revealed that those on a daily aspirin regimen for the prevention of heart disease increases risk of the development of AMD.
How to Protect Your Eyes
The best thing you can do for your eyes right now is protect them before you begin to develop a serious eye disease. Remember, symptoms don’t always show up right away, which means you could be experiencing eye damage right now and not yet be aware of it.
Risk factors for age-related eye disease include the cumulative effects of smoking, excessive pollutant exposure, poor diet, ultraviolet light exposure, heredity and nutritional deficiencies.
This is why I recommend:
A Healthy Diet
Whenever I see a new patient I ask them first about their diet. What you eat everyday has a profound effect on your overall health and wellbeing. If you’re eating a diet filled with processed foods, you’re taking in excessively high amounts of free radicals that cause systematic breakdown throughout your entire body.
This is why it is vitally important you eat a whole-food diet rich in free-radical-fighting antioxidants. These foods include organic vegetables, fruit, beans, seeds, legumes, meat, poultry, fish, and healthy fats such as coconut oil, butter, and olive oil.
Avoidance of genetically-modified foods is best because genetically modified foods can contain BT toxins that contribute to an untold amount of chronic degenerative disease.
The Right Nutrients
To reduce the chances of developing cataracts and macular degeneration, you need specific nutrients, namely powerful antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, vitamin E, zinc, copper, and lutein.
Here’s what I recommend to my patients concerned about their eye health:
Diamond Nutritional’s Foundation Vitamins
Even if you eat a relatively healthy diet, your body simply cannot keep up with the incredible amount of toxins in your environment without a little help. This is why I suggest all my patients take a quality multivitamin and mineral supplement to fill in those inevitable nutritional gaps.
Diamond Nutritional’s Foundation Vitamins are made from the highest quality ingredients your body can use. Many store-bought mass produced vitamins are loaded with synthetic additives which may be detrimental to your body.
It contains a complete blend of nutrients including:
Vitamin A – 7,500 IU
Vitamin C – 500 mg
Vitamin D3 – 500 IU
Vitamin E – 100 IU
Vitamin K – 50 mcg
Thiamine – 25 mg
Riboflavin – 25 mg
Niacin – 25 mg
Vitamin B6 – 38 mg
Folic Acid – 400 mcg
Vitamin B12 – 500 mcg
Biotin – 200 mcg
Panthothenic Acid – 150 mg
Calcium – 100 mg
Iodine – 113 mcg
Magnesium – 200 mg
Zinc – 10 mg
Selenium – 100 mcg
Copper – 1 mg
Manganese – 2.5 mg
Chromium – 200 mcg
Molybdenum – 25 mcg
Potassium – 50 mg
Choline Bitartrate USP – 50 mg
Inositol – 50 mg
Mixed Tocopherols – 50 mg
Lipoic Acid – 25 mg
N-Acetyl-Cysteine USP – 25 mg
Rutin – 25 mg
Lutein – 3 mg
Boron – 1.5 mg
Lycopene – 1 mg
Vanadyl Sulfate Hydrate – 1 mg
Diamond Nutritional’s Balanced Omega-3 Formula
Studies have shown that increased omega-3 intake is associated with decreased likelihood of the development of age-related eye disease. Unfortunately, most store-bought omega-3 fish oils do not contain the necessary amounts of EPA and DHA to make the difference your eyes need. Many products may claim to contain 1,000 mg. or 1,200 mg. on the front label, but on the back label the EPA and DHA may only add up to 300 mg. or so. The rest are nothing but fillers.
Many formulations are not molecularly distilled to remove heavy metals such as mercury, and are also oxidized by the time you take them. This can be detrimental to your health.
Diamond Nutritional’s Balanced Omega Formula contains nothing but 100% molecularly distilled fish oil for powerful, eye-protecting nutrition! Each capsule contains 720 mg. of pure EPA/DHA. I take, and recommend, four daily. These may be taken as a single dose, or divided. My recommended goal is 2,000-4,000 mg. of EPA/DHA daily.
Diamond Nutritional’s Vision Support Formula
Diamond Nutritional’s Vision Support Formula has many of the nutrients you need for healthy eyes in one supplement. This formula gives your eyes the healing, antioxidant support needed to reduce the chance of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
This formula contains:
Zinc plays a role in over 50 different proteins or enzymes, one being superoxide dismutase (SOD). SOD is vital to the extinguishing of free radicals in the lens and retina. This mineral is also used in other antioxidant enzymes including catalase. Studies have shown that zinc is able to significantly reduce visual loss when compared to placebo.
Taurine is an amino acid made by the body. Retinal concentrations of taurine are quite high and taurine is also required for the proper development of the retinal tissues. Taurine has been shown to be able to stimulate the replication of human retinal pigmented epithelial cells.
N-Acetyl L-Cysteine (NAC) is another antioxidant and is also a precursor to the antioxidant glutathione. Glutathione concentrations in the eye are very high when compared to other tissues in the body; low levels are associated with poor eye health. Since oral glutathione is not well absorbed by the body, supplementing with NAC is a better way to achieve optimal glutathione levels.
- Alpha Lipoic Acid
Lipoic Acid, once known as thioctic acid, is considered one of the most versatile antioxidants. Lipoic acid is able to recharge the antioxidants vitamin E, ascorbic acid, and glutathione. Lipoic acid has also been shown to inhibit the activity of aldose reductase in hyperglycemic conditions and improve visual function in a study of glaucoma patients.
- Bilberry Fruit Extract
Bilberry is rich in anthocyanosides and has been historically used to improve night vision. Extracts of bilberry are used in France and Germany for vascular conditions and problems with night vision.
- Quercetin Dihydrate
Quercetin is a flavonoid which has a high biological activity and is used as a potent antioxidant. Quercetin is found widely in the plant kingdom, including onions. In vitro, quercetin has been shown to inhibit human lens aldose reductase (an enzyme that converts glucose to sorbitol). Sorbitol cannot be transported through the lens membrane and therefore accumulates in the lens tissue, causing damage.
Lutein is an antioxidant carotenoid that helps improve color vision and night vision while protecting against the development of serious disease. Since your body doesn’t produce lutein on its own, it’s important for your eyesight and overall health that you get it from food or supplement sources.
An anti-inflammatory commonly associated with treating prostate disease, lycopene is also beneficial for your eye health. According to an article published in Nutrition Magazine, lycopene has been shown to attenuate oxidative stress induced cataract development. Lycopene not only offers powerful anti-inflammatory benefits, it also helps restore depleted glutathione levels.
Zeaxanthin works in tandem with lutein to provide powerful antioxidant support. This carotenoid provides special protection for the macula lutea, the portion of the lens where light is focused. Studies have shown that lutein combined with zeaxanthin prevents light damage often associated with age-related eye disease.
Serious eye disease doesn’t have to be an inevitable part of your aging process. You can help protect your eye health with simple dietary and lifestyle changes that will ensure your best vision for decades to come!
Also, remember to wear UV rated sunglasses when outdoors! Check the labels. You want glasses which block out 99-100% of both UVA and UVB rays. The color of the lenses alone does not determine the level of UV protection.