Impaired vision and total blindness are far more common than most people realize. In fact, more people lose vision to some degree than lose hearing or cognitive function.
I don’t know why so little attention is paid to what can be a very serious problem. Especially when the most common form of impaired vision is relatively easily prevented.
Macular degeneration is the most common cause of impaired vision. When symptoms appear after age 60, it’s called age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Early symptoms include blurred central vision and straight lines appearing distorted, for example, doorframes and steps.
The macula is near the center of the retina. In the early stages of AMD, deposits of fatty protein, called drusen, form on this sensitive tissue in the back of the eye. These play a role in the eventual death of retinal cells and deteriorating vision.
AMD-impaired sight can make everyday tasks like driving, reading, and watching TV difficult, but fortunately, it’s rarely the cause of total blindness.
What causes AMD, and who is at risk?
The exact cause of AMD is unknown. We know that certain genes cause it, but not what causes the genes to activate.
You may be at risk of developing AMD if you’re:
Older than 50
A smoker, overweight, or diabetic
Eating unhealthy food
People with fair skin and light eyes, or who have a history of cataracts, seem more susceptible. AMD is more common in women than men. But genes and age are the main suspects.
Types of AMD
There are two types of AMD—early and late.
In early AMD, your sight is unaffected, so you have no idea your vision is threatened. Only your eye care professional can detect the early signals, so regular eye exams are critical.
Some people with early AMD will develop late AMD, where loss of vision can begin.
Late AMD manifests as either dry or wet AMD.
Dry AMD is the more common type of late AMD—around 85% of people with late AMD have this type. Fortunately, it’s the less severe type—vision deteriorates slowly, over a longer period of time.
With wet AMD, vision degenerates more rapidly. It’s caused by abnormal blood vessels under the macula that bleed and leak fluid, causing distorted vision.
Fortunately, wet AMD is less common than dry. Again, only your eye care professional can tell which form you may have.
Preventing AMD with diet…and some help
Proper nutrition can reduce your risk of macular degeneration by up to 25%. It’s that simple.
Go for a diet rich in many different colored fruits and vegetables, each color signaling the presence of a different antioxidant. Consume no processed food if possible. Use olive oil generously.
But I also recommend giving your peepers some extra help from essential nutrients in the form of supplements.
Vitamin A, for example, is an outstanding AMD deterrent. But the US recommended daily minimum amount of vitamin A is too low. You’d have to eat acres of kale or carrots to hit the target amount.
But be careful not to overdo vitamin A. Don’t take more than 3,000 mcg/day (10,000 IU).
I recommend these daily amounts, some of which are considerably more than the recommended daily minimums:
Copper: no more than 1 mg/day, less for children or pregnant women
Zinc; no more than 25 mg/day
Vitamin C (500 mg)
Vitamin E (400 IU)
Beta-carotene (15 mg)
Vitamin D3 (5,000 IU)
Omega-3 (3 g)
CoQ10 (100 mg)
All of these natural supplements, taken together, add up to healthy eyes, much less likely to succumb to the vision troubles that come with age.
Powerful non-supplement interventions
I sometimes also recommend intravenous (IV) nutrient therapy. We inject vitamins and other nutrients, and antioxidants, especially selenium, directly into your bloodstream, in concentrations up to 100 times the concentration of antioxidants taken orally.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy, which stimulates greatly increased production and absorption of oxygen throughout the body, is also effective in reducing AMD symptoms.
Ozone therapy has a similar effect and can reduce or eliminate symptoms of many conditions, including AMD.
If you have wet AMD, a relatively new treatment called anti-VEGF therapy may be recommended to treat the damaged blood vessels in your eye.
Detecting early AMD: The Amsler Grid Test
The Amsler Grid is a simple grid of vertical and horizontal lines with a dot in the middle. It’s a DIY test: When you stare at the dot, if the lines surrounding it bulge or are wavy, get your eyes checked. The grid is available online for you to print out. As always, early detection is the goal.
So keep your eyes on the prize: lifelong healthy vision.