AMD is a common eye disease associated with aging that gradually destroys sharp, central vision. Central vision is needed for seeing objects clearly and for common daily tasks such as reading and driving. In some people, AMD advances so slowly that it will have little effect on their vision as they age. But in others, the disease progresses faster and may lead to a loss of vision in one or both eyes.
Dry and wet are the two forms of AMD.
Ninety people have dry AMD. Scientists are still not sure what causes this. Studies suggest that an area of the retina becomes diseased, leading to slow breakdown of the light-sensing cells in the macula and a gradual loss of central vision. Wet AMD affects only ten percent of all people with AMD, but accounts for ninety percent of all blindness from the disease. As dry AMD worsens, new blood vessels may begin to grow and cause "wet" AMD. Because these new blood vessels tend to be fragile, they often leak blood and fluid under the macula. This causes rapid damage to the macula that can lead to the loss of central vision in a short period of time.
Age is the greatest risk factor associated with AMD. Although AMD may occur during middle age, studies clearly show that people over age 60 at greater risk.
There is no pain associated with AMD. The most common early sign of dry AMD is blurred vision. Often blurred vision will go away in brighter light. If the loss of these light-sensing cells becomes great, people may see a small - but growing - blind spot in the middle of their field of vision. The classic early symptom of wet AMD is when straight lines appear crooked. This results when fluid from the leaking blood vessels gathers and lifts the macula, distorting vision. A small blind spot may also appear in wet AMD, resulting in loss of one's central vision.
A cataract is a clouding of the eye's lens that causes loss of vision. Age-related cataract is the most common type.
Researchers suspect that there are several causes of cataract, such as smoking and diabetes. Or, it may be that the protein in the lens just changes from the wear and tear it takes over the years. Sunlight and diet have also been linked to early development of cataract.
The term "age-related" is a little misleading. You don't have to be a senior citizen to get this type of cataract. People can have an age-related cataract in their 40s and 50s. But during middle age, most cataracts are small and do not effect vision. It is after age 60 that most cataracts steal vision.
A cataract starts out small. It has little effect on vision at first. You may notice that your vision blurs a little, like looking through a cloudy piece of glass. A cataract may make light from the sun or a lamp seem too bright, causing a glare. Or, you may notice when you drive at night that the oncoming headlights cause more glare than before. Also, colors may not appear as bright to you as they once did.
Glaucoma is an eye disease in which the internal pressure of your eye rises to a point that the optic nerve is damaged. The pressure that builds up is due to a problem in the flow or drainage of fluid normally produced in your eye. Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in the U.S.
The exact cause of glaucoma is not known. In general, this drainage mechanism for fluid produced in your eyes can become blocked, or you may simply produce too much fluid and overwhelm this mechanism. This results in fluid building up within your eye and increasing pressure on the optic nerve. The nerve fibers and blood vessels in the optic nerve can easily be damaged by pressure.
Glaucoma most frequently occurs in individuals over the age of 40 and there is a hereditary tendency for the development of the disease in some families. Primary open-angle glaucoma is more common among blacks than whites, causes damage at an earlier age and leads to blindness at a much greater rate. There is also a greater tendency for glaucoma to develop in individuals who are nearsighted or who have diabetes.
The signs or symptoms of glaucoma can vary depending on the type. Primary open-angle glaucoma often develops gradually and painlessly. There are no early warning signs. It can gradually destroy your vision without you knowing it. The first indication may occur after some vision has already been lost. Acute angle-closure glaucoma, which results from a sudden blockage of drainage channels in your eye, causes a rapid build up of pressure accompanied by blurred vision, the appearance of colored rings around lights and pain or redness in the eyes.
Diabetic eye disease refers to a group of eye problems that people with diabetes may face as a complication of this disease. It can cause severe vision loss or even blindness. Diabetic eye disease may include: Diabetic retinopathy - damage to the blood vessels in the retina, Cataract and Glaucoma.
This disease is a leading cause of blindness in American adults. It is caused by changes in the blood vessels of the retina. In some people with diabetic retinopathy, retinal blood vessels may swell and leak fluid. In other people, abnormal new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina. These changes may result in vision loss or blindness. The longer someone has diabetes, the more likely he or she will get diabetic retinopathy. Nearly half of all people with diabetes will develop some degree of diabetic retinopathy during their lifetime.
Generally there are no symptoms in the early stages of the disease. Vision may not change until the disease becomes severe. Pain may not be present. Blurred vision may occur when the macula - the part of the retina that provides sharp, central vision - swells from the leaking fluid. This condition is called macular edema. If new vessels have grown on the surface of the retina, they can bleed into the eye, blocking vision. But, even in more advanced cases, the disease may progress a long way without symptoms.
Nutrition plays an important role in ocular health. Although supplements cannot cure or treat most diseases, in the past several years there has been an increased awareness on their effectiveness for prevention.
Omega-3 fatty acids can prevent and alleviate symptoms of dry eye syndrome and can slow the progression of age-related eye disorders such as glaucoma and macular degeneration. Common sources of Omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, walnuts and flaxseed. DHA and EPA, which are sources of Omega-3 essential fatty acids, cannot be produced by the body and therefore must be obtained through diet or supplementation. DHA accounts for approximately 30% of the total fatty acids found within the eye.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin are two carotenoids. A carotenoid is a naturally occurring pigment responsible for the colors found in vegetables and fruits. Carotenoids engage in antioxidant activity. That is one of the reasons that medical practitioners recommend that you eat as many varied fruits and vegetables as possible. When lutein and zeaxanthin are ingested from a healthy diet, these nutrients will accumulate in the eyes to filter out harmful ultraviolet blue light. Studies have found that when individuals age 55-80 ate a diet rich in these carotenoids they were more likely to have healthy vision than people who did not.
Remember that a supplement should not replace good nutrition. It is important for your health that you maintain a varied and nutritious diet. Obtaining the recommended daily allowance of fruits and vegetables can be challenging. If you are a typical American, studies show that you are substantially lacking in the vitamin load that a wholesome diet rich in fruits and vegetables can provide. That is why our office sells and recommends Juice Plus. Juice Plus provides whole food based nutrition from a variety of fruits and vegetables. It contains phytonutrients, antioxidants, and fiber. These nutrients work together in combination to provide you more of the nutritional benefits of eating healthful whole foods. We also sell and recommend ProDHA Eye. ProDHA Eye contains appropriate levels of omega-3, lutein and zeaxanthin.
Eye Health Evaluations, like regular physical exams, are beginning to turn the corner and focus more on disease prevention. Your nutrition plays a critical role in this. Please ask us if you desire references for recent studies or those currently underway.