Nutrition and lifestyle
You may have heard your eye doctor talk about how important diet and lifestyle changes can be on reducing risk, or slowing the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). While there can be genetic factors involved, environmental factors also play an important role in determining risk of AMD.
Smoking can be very dangerous for your eyes as well as the rest of your body. Cigarettes contain many harmful chemicals, which are released in the smoke and inhaled. These chemicals, called oxidants, cause an increase in inflammation and damage to cells in the eyes.
This can seriously harm the cells in the retina called the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). The RPE cells’ main function is to keep the photoreceptors, the cells that sense vision, alive. If the RPE cells die or get damaged it can cause photoreceptors to die. This can lead to a loss of vision.
Vitamins and anti-oxidants
Diet can play a role in not only lowering the risk of AMD, but also slowing progression of the disease. Many fruits and vegetables contain nutrients with anti-oxidant properties. These anti-oxidants work by stopping the dangerous oxidants (such as from cigarette smoke) from damaging cells and causing inflammation. Cigarette smoke is not the only form of oxidants; pollution, chemicals, UV light and more may all cause oxidation and inflammation. Important anti-oxidants for vision are lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamin C and vitamin E. Lutein and zeaxanthin can be found in leafy green vegetables such as kale, spinach, red pepper, and eggs.
To further understand how diet can affect those with AMD, researchers undertook a very large clinical trial. This trial tested how nutritional supplements may help stop the progression of early AMD to late AMD. Using knowledge already known about the roles of vitamins and anti-oxidants they formulated a supplement containing:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
There are other small changes you can make to better monitor your disease and any vision loss. These include having yearly optician appointments to monitor any changes in vision. Amsler grids can also be very useful in quickly noticing any vision loss or distortion. If you notice any sudden differences using the Amsler grid this could indicate your AMD is progressing, or your dry AMD may have turned into wet AMD.
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