Macular Degeneration Center
General Health Information
The macula is the area of the retina where images are focused, and is responsible for fine vision. Degeneration of the macula is a major cause of vision loss for elderly in the U.S. Loss of vision can occur suddenly or it may progress slowly. The major risk factors for macular degeneration are smoking, aging, atherosclerosis, environmental toxins, bright lights, heredity, and high blood pressure. One cause is thought to be a decreased blood and oxygen supply to the retina. This degenerative condition can be the result of free-radical damage, similar to that which induces cataracts. Free radical damage is caused by toxic, highly reactive molecules call free-radicals which can build up in our bodies.
There are two types of macular degeneration, atrophic (dry) and exudative (wet). Exudative macular degeneration is marked by leaking of fluid or hemorrhaging of blood vessels in the retina, thus causing scarring and vision loss. Most people experience the atrophic form which is largely age-related. In this case, sacs of cellular debris that have accumulated throughout life begin to cause vision loss. Central vision is lost, whereas peripheral vision remains in tact. Always have your physician check your eyes if you are experiencing vision loss of any kind in order to determine its cause.
Prevention of macular degeneration means reducing its risk factors. Controlling blood pressure and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) are important early in life. Avoiding overexposure to bright lights, smoke, and environmental toxins are also key. Because free-radical damage is a cause of macular degeneration, supplementation with antioxidants (with such as vitamins A, C, & E, and selenium) is especially important. Antioxidants are thought to help rid our body of toxic free-radicals. Other antioxidant supplements such as bilberry, ginkgo, and OPCs (oligomeric proanthocyanidins) also contain flavonoids which may help to increase blood flow to the retina and improve vision. Since the macula in the eye is high in yellow carotenes, a diet rich in carotenoids is beneficial. Such a diet includes a variety of yellow-orange fruits and vegetables. Lycopene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene are very beneficial carotenoid supplements that help the body maintain critical oxygen flow to the macula. Zinc plays an essential role in retinal function, so adequate levels of zinc are imperative.
Wellness Centers Related to Macular Degeneration
Additional Information on Macular Degeneration