Eye Diseases

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Eye diseases - cataracts and macular degeneration

Blindness is one of the most feared medical conditions, yet it is hugely preventable. It is never too late to start treatments which can slow the process down, even if it does not reverse it. There are 4 major causes of blindness - cataract, macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetes. Glaucoma can only be helped with drugs and operations and diabetes will be discussed elsewhere. We will concentrate on the first two - Macular degeneration and cataract.

330px-eye_disease_simulation_age-related_macular_degeneration 330px-eye_disease_simulation_normal_visionMacular degeneration - this is considered as an ageing process -but it can be slowed or stopped. The macula is the central portion of the retina (the bit we use to read fine print and focus on, the most important part, and it is this that starts to blur, grey out and finally black out, so people can only see blurs round the outside of the object they look at. (see picture). Many factors are blamed for its cause including just old age, smoking, alcohol excess, exposure to sunlight and there is some tendency for it to occur in families. The actual cause is not known - is it inflammation, immunity or light damage?
A simple test for early Macular degeneration is looking the Amsler grid - try this here

What doctors can do

No treatments can cure or reverse the damage, but some can slow the deterioration, including laser, injected drugs  such as VGEF inhibitors directly into the eyeball.  These may slow new blood vessel development and arrest rapidly developing disease.  The  injections of steroids may cause short-term benefits, but may not last or even make longer term vision worse.
Interesting Up-To-Date also recommends using  'AREDS2 formulation (containing vitamin C 500 mg, vitamin E 400 international units, lutein 10 mg, zeaxanthin 1 mg, zinc 80 mg [as zinc oxide], and copper 2 mg.

What you can do

  • Smoking - absolutely NO cigarette smoking, not even an occasional puff, and it is probably best to avoid second hand smoke if you can.
  • Avoid bright light outside - wear a sunhat and quality dark glasses if the light is bright or in the sun
  • Diet - High intake of fruit and vegetables rich in carotenoids (orange and red) - and green leafy vegetables - lots of vitamins A, C and E and zinc. Fish and fish oils have been shown to slow the process. So a diet rich in fruit vegetables fish and nuts sounds not only appealing, but will also be beneficial.

Nutritional supplements - because today's food is often depleted of much of its goodness, and because optimal levels are so important, i would strongly recommend that those at risk or with macular degeneration also take supplements as well as an ideal diet:   The AREDS study (Age related Eye Disease Study) reviewed 4,700 people 55-80 years, gave them Vitamin C, Vitamin E, beta carotene and zinc reduced the risk of developing eye disease by 25% in those at highest risk.

  • A good multivitamin and mineral - to make sure the retina has all the nutrients and vitamins it needs including the antioxidant vitamins and zinc (>80mg) - as much as that used in the AREDS study.
  • Omega 3 fish oils - take a good fish oil (1 - 2,000mg daily) as this has been shown to slow the process, but make sure it is a good quality one without any mercury.
  • Vitamin C - take extra vitamin C, 1 -2 grams per day, both to reduce oxidation and also aid in healing of the retina.
  • Vitamin D - this vitamin seems to have many actions which we are only now discovering. In one study  those with high vitamin d levels had less than 1/2 the risk of developing macular degeneration than those with low levels. So I would strongly recommend taking 5 - 8,000iu of vitamin d daily.
  • Lutein and zeaxanthine - these are pigments found in the retina which protect it from damaging UV light, and their concentration decreases with age. Take a good supplement containing these may help this protective pigment layer and reduce further damage.

The Nutritional supplements I use and recommend to my patients

Supplements I recommend for Macular degeneration patients - USANA - Cellsentials *, Biomega, Active Calcium plus, vitamin D, Visionex - click here for more information

Cataracts

This is the leading cause of blindness in the world, the normally crystal clear lens of the eye becomes opaque and vision becomes clouded before finally blacking out. There are many
known causes, which give an indication of how to prevent and treat it - age, smoking, excess alcohol, sunlight exposure, malnutrition, physical inactivity, diabetes and some drugs ( inhaled steroids and aspirin)

What doctors can do

No drugs have any beneficial effects, but surgical removal of the cataract and replacing it with a new clear lens leads to almost miraculous cures all over the world.  Modern lenses can be bifocal so negating the need to wear glasses.

What you can do

  • Smoking - no smoking at all, even second hand smoke
  • Good diet - poor nutrition is one reason why it is so common in third world countries. Plenty of fruit and vegetables.
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Reduce sun exposure - wear a hat and use quality sun glasses when outside.
  • If using inhaled steroids, make sure none is splashed into the eyes.

Nutritional supplements- these make sure the eye is getting all the nutrients it requires:

  • A good multivitamin containing beta carotene and vitamins A, C and E helps in protection
  • Vitamin C 2-4grams per day - it is the sun oxidising the lens which causes the cataracts, so taking antioxidant vitamin C can protect.
  • Luteine and zeaxinthine are pigments which have been shown to decrease cataracts in older women.
  • Other supplements which may help but we have little evidence other than logic at present include fish oils and Co-enzyme CoQ10. There are many other
    reasons for taking these supplements so I personally would suggest using them.

The Nutritional supplements I use and recommend to my patients

Supplements I recommend for cataract patients - USANA - Cellsentials *, Visionex, Biomega -

Other therapies

There are a number of other therapies which you might like to look at.  They have not been specifically included with this disease because some are a form of treatment which is applicable to most diseases and many focus on the mind, body, spirit, and the universe. These include - acupuncture, Ayurvedic medicine, energy healing, homeopathy, naturopathy, prayer, visualisation and some people with this condition might like to look at these topics (I have described them more fully on another page on this website click here .) With my personal experience and reading, I do not think that I can comment of whether one or a number of these might help.    They fit well with most conventional and complementary treatments and I suspect some or even all of them can be extremely powerful - if performed by an experienced practitioner.    My only caveat is that if in the course of one of these therapies, you are given potions or herbs, do check with your health practitioner that they will not interfere with other treatments or drugs you are receiving.

Nutritional supplements

I believe in today's world that nutritional supplements are so necessary as to be an essential component of any form of both prevention and treatment. Not only is today's food lacking in nutrients because of the way it was grown and processed, but also most of us make the wrong choices in diet. It is virtually impossible to obtain optimal levels of most of the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients although many people try to do so, and even then fresh produce is not available all year round. *There are many quality supplements available on the market, including –Thorne, NFS, Douglas Labs, Xtend Life, True Star Health, USANA, and Metagenics. There are others, but do your due diligence before choosing one. USANA Health Sciences has added a new adjunct to its multivitamin and multi mineral called CellSentials. These are a patented blend of phyto-nutrients which they believe affects cell signaling and growth, and increases the production of preventative antioxidants within the cell. These should add to the value of the multi, so these are the multivitamin/mineral preparation I recommend.