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Macular Degeneration


Macular degeneration is the leading cause of legal blindness in U.S. adults over 55, affecting more than 10 million people.  There are two forms of macular degeneration – dry macular degeneration, which causes gradual loss of vision in the center of the eye and seldom results in complete blindness, and wet macular degeneration, which accounts for 90% of the serious vision loss from macular degeneration and tends to happen very suddenly.


Macular degeneration is an age-related eye condition believed to arise from the deterioration and damage done to the tissues of the macula – the light sensitive cells in the lens of the eye – by free radicals.  Treatments for macular degeneration include surgical alternatives and medication that may slow deterioration of vision.


What Macular Degeneration  Does:

Dry macular degeneration is caused by the breakdown of the light sensitive cells at the center of the retina – the macula.  As those cells are destroyed by oxidation, the central vision gradually dims and is destroyed. In the early stages, dry macular degeneration is characterized by blurred central vision that eventually becomes a blank spot at the center of the visual field.  It can result in eventual legal blindness, affecting your ability to read, drive and perform other activities of daily vision.


Wet macular degeneration is the result of blood vessels behind the macula growing in toward the macula and leaking blood and fluids into the retina.  It is characterized by the sudden onset of blind spots in the center of vision, and distortion of straight lines on the periphery of the visual field.  Wet macular degeneration is most likely to result in severe vision loss.


Symptoms of  Macular Degeneration:

The earliest symptom of macular degeneration is general blurriness of vision.  As time goes on, the blurriness becomes more localized to the center visual field.  The eventual result of dry macular degeneration is a gradually increasing blurred spot at the center of the visual field.


Wet macular degeneration is characterized by sudden dark spots in the visual field, in and around the center of vision. It also is characterized by the distortion of straight lines around the central field that makes them appear wavy.  In fact, doctors often measure the deterioration of vision with a grid made up of straight lines.


What Causes Macular Degeneration:

Macular degeneration is caused by the destruction and deterioration of the photo-sensitive cells located in the macula.  Those cells are responsible for visual acuity, and as they are destroyed, the vision becomes blurred.  The deterioration is believed to be the result of damage from free radicals created through the process of oxidation.  The condition is worsened by pollutants in the air and poor diet.  There does seem to be a genetic predisposition to macula degeneration, but it is not completely linked to a hereditary disorder.  The following risk factors are associated with macular degeneration:


  • Age – the risk of macular degeneration increases with age. Most cases are diagnosed in adults over 55.

  • Cigarette smoking is implicated as a risk precursor to macular degeneration.

  • Family history of macular degeneration

  • Cardiovascular disease

  • High cholesterol

  • Light eye color

  • Excessive exposure to sunlight

While the listed risk factors are often found in people who have macular degeneration, it doesn’t suggest that they are necessarily causes of the condition. It’s more likely that macular degeneration is another symptom of an underlying cause – and as more research is conducted into all types of disease and disorder, it is becoming increasingly clear to scientists and doctors that the most common underlying cause is a diet lacking in certain nutrients.


Treatments for Macular Degeneration:

There is no known cure for macular degeneration, but vision loss can be slowed or prevented. Doctors may prescribe drugs like tPA or thalidomide, a change in your diet to increase your intake of carotenoids and flavonoids, protecting your eyes from ultraviolet light, estrogen replacement therapy, and the moderate consumption of red wine, which has been shown to have some antioxidant properties.  Doctors may also recommend laser surgery to repair or remove leaking blood vessels in cases of wet macular degeneration.


Research shows a number of promising avenues of treatment for macular degeneration in terms of nutrition.  Because the damage to the macula results from oxidation, many doctors are prescribing an increase in dietary intake of antioxidants that protect the retina like lutein and zeaxanthin, vitamin C, selenium, zinc and carotenoids as a means of preventing or slowing damage to the eye.  According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, which maintains a large database of alternative medicine treatments and the supporting research, the following supplements and nutrients seem to have a positive effect in preventing damage from macular degeneration:


  • Lutein and zeaxanthin

  • Vitamin C

  • Mixed carotenoids (in addition to lutein and zeaxanthin)

  • Vitamin E

  • Selenium

  • Zinc

  • Flavonoids like quercetin, rutin and resveritol (found in red wine and dark red fruits like cherries and berries)

  • Omega 3 fatty acids found in fish oil and fish oil supplements

  • Gingko biloba

  • Bilberry extract


The best defense against age related disorders and diseases like macular degeneration is a healthy, well balanced diet.  Because our diets today are affected by factors outside our control – factors like industrial farming methods and pollution – it’s important to supplement even a good diet with additional nutrients in the form of a balanced health supplement that provides a full day’s recommended intake of all the essential nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy and vital.


If you have symptoms of macular degeneration, your doctor can suggest treatments that will help delay the loss of vision, and you should discuss nutritional supplements with him as well.  Recent research has shown that one of the most effective supplements in preventing damage from macular degeneration is omega 3 fatty acids – specifically the omega 3 acids found in fish oil.  Because some research has suggested that ALA (alpha linoleic acid), the omega 3 found in plant sources, may actually worsen vision loss, most doctors recommend a fish oil supplement that is high in DHA to add the necessary omega 3 to your daily intake of nutrients. 


We highly recommend Omega 3 / DHA Fish Oil from Xtend-Life as a daily DHA/EPA fish oil supplement. Because the company uses only oil from fish raised in the pristine waters of New Zealand, and has perfected a process to extract the oil and convert it to the form that your body needs, Omega 3 / DHA Fish Oil provides an exceptionally pure fish oil supplement that is naturally high in DHA, the omega 3 fatty acid that has been proven in research to be the most effective in slowing and even halting damage to the retina from age related macular degeneration.


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