CINCINNATI—A problem most people should worry about as they or their loved ones get older is age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of irreversible blindness.
But according to University of Cincinnati (UC) physician Manoj Singh, MD, taking specific antioxidant vitamins or mineral supplements or eating enough fruits, vegetables, nuts and fish can prevent or slow development of AMD.
According to Singh, medical director of University Family Physicians at University Pointe, West Chester, and assistant professor of family medicine at UC, AMD affects more than 10 percent of people over 80. The condition causes a deterioration of the macula, part of the retina in the back of the eye that allows you to see fine details. In macular degeneration, central vision is affected while peripheral vision remains intact.
"The cause of AMD is unknown and may simply be part of the body's natural aging process," Singh says.
Macular degeneration can cause different symptoms in different people. Sometimes only one eye loses vision, while the other eye is unaffected for many years. But when both eyes are affected, the loss of central vision may be noticed more quickly.
"If you suspect you have macular degeneration, you should see an ophthalmologist for an exam to confirm and evaluate the condition," says Singh. The eye doctor will often also use a "grid" to check your visual fields and will occasionally take a retinal photograph.
Treatment for macular degeneration involves taking specific nutritional supplements, certain medications or possibly undergoing laser surgery.
An article in the December 2005 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported that a diet high in beta-carotene, vitamins C and E and zinc was associated with a lower risk of AMD. Sources of these vitamins and minerals include:
- Beta-carotene: carrots, sweet potatoes, kale, mangoes, turnips, papayas, apricots, cantaloupes, bell peppers, milk and eggs
- Vitamin C: oranges, broccoli, bell peppers, strawberries, cantaloupes, mangoes, tangerines, potatoes (with the skin), spinach and papayas
- Vitamin E: almonds, olive oil, soy, mangoes, peanuts and sweet potatoes
- Zinc: meat (including fish), dairy products and grains
Singh recommends that you review your diet to ensure it includes an adequate amount and variety of the foods listed. Or ask your doctor to advise which antioxidant supplements you should take, how often and in what quantity.
Singh cautions, however, "Smokers should be careful about taking beta-carotene, since there have been reports of a higher risk of lung cancer in this group."
For more information on dietary or other medical approaches to the treatment of macular degeneration or to schedule an appointment, call (513) 475-8264.