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Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration (MD), is a progressive disease that destroys central vision due to deterioration of the macula region of the eye, and its functions.

Symptoms

Symptoms include:

Blurring of central vision (the most common symptom). 
Central, or detailed vision is blocked by dark or empty spaces. 
Straight lines appear distorted or wavy (an early symptom). 
Inability to recognise faces until very close to them. 
Colour perception may change or diminish (uncommon). 
Peripheral vision is rarely affected.
Only a professional eye examination by an eye care specialist can properly diagnose MD.

Causes

The underlying causes of MD are unknown but several risk factors have been identified:

Age – people in their 50’s have almost a 2% chance of suffering from MD. The risk increases to nearly 30% in those over 75 years. 
Females have a higher risk of MD than males. 
Smoking one packet of cigarettes per day doubles the risk of MD. The risk increases with the number of cigarettes smoked daily and the number of years as a smoker. 
A family history of MD is associated with a higher risk. 
Light exposure. 
Light coloured irises (eg blue, grey or green eyes) are more closely associated with MD than brown irises.

Natural Therapies

The Age Related Eye Diseases Study (AREDS) conducted by the US National Eye Institute, involved over 4600 people for an average of 6.3 years and showed that high levels of antioxidants and zinc: 

Reduced the risk of developing advanced MD by about 25%. 
Reduced the risk of vision loss by 19%.
The antioxidant formula used in the study included zinc, copper, vitamins C and E, and betacarotene.

Almost a third of men 55 – 65 don’t get their recommended dietary intake (RDI) of zinc. 
90% of women 45+ don’t get their RDI of zinc. 
95% of women 65+ don’t get their RDI of zinc.

Lifestyle Factors

Dietary and lifestyle changes may help slow the development of MD. A diet rich in the following is beneficial:

Green leafy and red and yellow vegetables such as kale, silver beet, spinach, broccoli, carrots and squashes – all good sources of antioxidants. 
Nuts and seeds, which are rich sources of vitamin E. 
Fish and eggs are sources of zinc.

Remedies

If you are a smoker, quit smoking; protect the eyes from ultraviolet light by wearing sunglasses. Have regular check-ups with your eye care specialist. Eat an antioxidant-rich diet and supplement with an antioxidant plus zinc formula.

Important Notes

Regular eye checks should be undergone after the age of 45 years or earlier if there is a family history of MD.

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