When seniors are asked what they fear most, one of the most frequently cited concerns is going blind or having a major loss of vision. Elderly people encounter staggeringly high rates of cataract, glaucoma and macular degeneration.
The good news is that aging of the eye is no longer inevitable. Scientific studies conclusively show that the risk can be mitigated via lifestyle and nutritional modifications. While major advances have been made in treating ocular disorders, there are still technological gaps that cause many to lose their precious vision. This article reviews the published literature and reveals new studies showing that common signs of aging of the eye are largely preventable.
The following vision issues are summarized below, followed by a summary and recommendation. These links are to the full articles: Aging of the Lens, Aging of the Macula, Dry Eye, and Diabetic Retinopathy.
A great deal is known today about the causes of aging of the lens, and significant progress has been made in the search for inexpensive, non-invasive, low-risk methods to halt cataractogenesis and maintain a clear lens. Such a preventative therapy could help many aging people delay or avoid surgery altogether.
Nutrients that have been shown effective at maintaining a clear lens include lutein and zeaxanthin, carnosine, glutathione, taurine and cysteine; the antioxidant vitamins C, A and E; and vitamin B2 (riboflavin). For a full discussion of aging of the lens and how each of these nutrients helps protect against loss of vision, click here.
The macula is the central and most vital area of the retina. It records images and sends them via the optic nerve from the eye to the brain. The macula is responsible for focusing central vision that is needed for seeing fine detail, reading, driving and recognizing facial features.
Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in people over the age of 55, affecting more than 10 million Americans. It is a condition in which the central portion of the retina (the macula) deteriorates. There is little that can be done within conventional medical treatment protocols to restore lost eyesight.
Lutein and zeaxanthin, the primary carotenoids concentrated in the macula, counter the free-radical forming action of light and oxygen. Macular pigment density can be increased by consuming foods and supplements that are rich in lutein and zeaxanthin.50-53 Consuming lutein ester can increase macular pigment density in patients with early ARMD, so even people with diseased macula can accumulate lutein and possibly zeaxanthin.53 The Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, as well as the Age Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) have found that an antioxidant combination of Vitamin E, carotene and Vitamin C were protective.
Inflammation, as measured by c-reactive protein has been implicated in macular degeneration. In a follow-up to the AREDS study, those whose CRP levels were in the highest quartile, had a 65 percent increased risk of macular degeneration compared to those in the lowest one-fourth of participants. In another study, Omega-3 fatty acid, specifically, DHA, from fish, actually reduced the AMD risk by 30%. Omega-3 fish oil and Neptune Krill oil have anti-inflammatory properties as shown on this inflammation chart.
For a full discussion on aging of the macula, click here.
A problem that affects people as they age is the onset of dry eye symptoms. This disorder is one of the leading causes for visits to the optometrist and ophthalmologist. Dry eye can be a very uncomfortable condition but generally does not lead to serious eye complications. One of the best treatments for dry eye symptoms is a good soothing eye drop.
Most eye doctors that are oriented toward prevention will recommend an eye drop containing the lubricant glycerin and/or carboxymethylcellulose sodium plus other nutrients such as vitamin E, vitamin A, carnosine or glutathione. Omega-3 fish oil taken orally may also assist in reducing dry eye. Further dry eye information is here.
One of the leading complications associated with diabetes is blindness or other eye diseases stemming from vascular damage to the eyes caused by high blood sugar. Diligently controlling blood sugar is a major means of preventing or at least slowing the onset and progression of diabetic retinopathy. Click here for a more complete discussion on diabetic retinopathy.
Young eyes contain high concentrations of natural antioxidants that protect against cataract, macular degeneration and other ocular disorders. In the aged eye, synthesis of natural antioxidants such as lutein, zeaxanthin, and glutathione is reduced, resulting in excessive free radical damage.
According to one published report, "nutritional intervention to enhance the glutathione antioxidant capacity… may provide an effective way to prevent normal aging of the macula."
Another problem with aging eyes is protein degradation and the formation of advanced glycation end products. Aged eyes fail to break down and remove old proteins, which results in the accumulation of non-functioning protein crosslinks. The resulting accumulation of damaged proteins leads to normal aging of the eyes.
Antioxidant supplements such as Maximum Vitality® have been shown to provide considerable protection against normal macular aging. Unfortunately, aging diminishes circulation to the eye, thereby denying the eyes the full benefits of orally ingested antioxidant and anti-glycating agents.
The good news is that topical eye drop preparations are now available to provide some of the most important nutrients directly into the eye.
If people live long enough, severe visual impairment or blindness is almost inevitable. Poor vision from cataracts affects 80% of people 75 years of age and older. Taking care of your vision while you are young may delay or prevent this impairment.
The eyes are particularly vulnerable to the effects of aging. Degenerative changes in the eye often begin in middle age. By age 70, a significant percentage of people suffer from aging of the macula and lens of the eye.
A review of the published scientific literature shows that common ocular disorders can be prevented with lifestyle modifications such as following a low glycemic diet, wearing UV blocking sunglasses, avoiding excess saturated fat and not smoking.
A compelling body of evidence indicates that orally ingested antioxidants (such as zeaxanthin, lutein and vitamins) and anti-glycating agents (such as n-acetyl-carnosine and alpha-lipoic acid) help to prevent and treat the aging eye. Visual Optimizer™ used in conjunction with Maximum Vitality® multivitamin provide substantial amounts of all of these important eye nutrients.
Scientific studies indicate that topical application of certain nutrients may be helpful in the prevention and treatment of common senile eye disorders. In response to these published reports, eye drop solutions have been developed that contain specially designed antioxidants, lubricants and anti-glycating agents. Visual Ocuity™ is the newest of these topical eye drop preparations, developed based upon the latest scientific research.
Full references are here.
Adapted with permission from an article in Life Extension, Feb 2003.