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Last updated March 12, 2017

By Louise Carr, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist





You may be heading towards serious vision loss and, forgive the pun,
never even see it coming.

Age-related macular degeneration is a painless condition, which many
people do not spot until it is too late.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of vision
loss in America – but is it automatically a part of getting older? Or is
there a way to prevent macular degeneration?

Macular degeneration destroys the "macula", which is the section of
the eye responsible for providing clear central vision. You need this
vision to see clearly.

The disease occurs more frequently with age and it is most common
among older white Americans – age-related macular degeneration
affects 14 percent of white Americans over the age of 80, according
to The National Institutes of Health.

As women are more likely to live longer, they are also more likely to
suffer from macular degeneration. By 2025, experts estimate that
5.44 million people in the States will experience vision loss caused by
macular degeneration. What can you do to prevent becoming one of
these 5.44 million? Do supplements help?

What Are the Symptoms of Macular Degeneration?

There is no pain associated with macular degeneration but it does
lead to vision loss, usually in both eyes. The vision loss is from the
central part of the eye.  This means that it becomes more difficult to
read, colors are less bright, and you find it difficult to recognize
faces. Sometimes the vision changes happen over time, sometimes
more rapidly. Since your side vision is not affected you will not go
completely blind.

What Are the Causes of Macular Degeneration?





























There are two main types of macular degeneration – dry and wet.

With dry age-related macular degeneration, the cells in the macula
are damaged by a build-up of a deposit called drusen. Vision loss is
gradual.

With wet macular degeneration, abnormal blood vessels under the
macula damage the macula cells. Vision can disappear within days
with this kind of macular degeneration. Age is the major risk factor
for macular degeneration.

There is some evidence that diet and dietary supplements play a part
in helping to prevent macular degeneration.

A 2004 study from Harvard Medical School and Brigham and
Women's Hospital, Boston shows that a diet high in fruits played a
protective role in avoiding macular degeneration. The study looked at
data from the women in the Nurses' Health Study and men in the
Health Professionals Follow-up Study.

You may also be able to reduce your risk by stopping smoking,
moderating your alcohol consumption, wearing UV sunglasses when
outside, and maintaining a healthy weight. Since there is no cure,
prevention is vital.

What exactly does science say about using supplements to prevent
macular degeneration?

Zinc and Antioxidants Help Prevent Macular Degeneration

Scientists are most concerned with antioxidant and zinc supplements
for the purposes of protecting against macular degeneration. These
include Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, as well as zinc and the trace
elements lutein and zeaxanthin.

Scientists believe that antioxidants help to protect against macular
degeneration because they destroy the free radicals that can
contribute to cell damage, especially cell damage that occurs through
aging.

There have been some studies that directly look at the antioxidant
vitamins and their power to help prevent macular degeneration.

A 2001 study from the Age-Related Eye Disease Study Research
Group looked at how effective zinc was in protecting against macular
degeneration.

The study looked at 3,640 people who had early stage macular
degeneration. They were assigned to take antioxidants (vitamin C,
vitamin E, and beta-carotene), zinc and copper, antioxidants and
zinc, or placebo. The study showed that the zinc or the zinc plus
antioxidant treatment significantly slowed the progression of macular
degeneration.

However it is worth remembering that high levels of zinc – above
80mg a day – can cause problems with copper absorption, which is
why the copper was included in the trial.

While zinc appears to help prevent macular degeneration, it is not
clear whether antioxidants themselves have an impact.

A 2002 study from the Centre for Eye Research Australia, at the
University of Melbourne looked at 1,193 people who took vitamin E
for macular degeneration and did not find any benefits.

A 2007 study from Brigham and Women's Hospital looked at a
massive 20,000 people over 10 years and failed to find that beta
carotene helped reduce the incidence of macular degeneration. Other
trials find no evidence for supplementation with vitamin E, vitamin C,
or beta carotene.

[Editor's Note:

Are Mangoes Really Helpful Against Macular Degeneration?

Will eating mangoes help? The carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin may
be more promising are found in high concentrations in the eye. A
2003 study from the University of Vienna found that the antioxidant
zeaxanthin, which is found in high levels in mangoes, helps protect
the eyes and may prevent damage from macular degeneration.

However, we looked more closely at the reputation of mangoes as a
source of zeaxanthins.  The compounds lutein and zeaxanthin both
are xanthophylls and their content in foods are often reported
together.  In 2007, one team of scientists from the US Department of
Agriculture set out to clarify the exact lutein versus zeaxanthin
content in many common foods.


When it comes to mangoes, their reputation as a rich source of
zeaxanthin is, well, exaggerated. The scientists, led by Dr. Alisa Perry
of the Jean Mayer US Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition
Research Centers at Tufts University, found that mangoes contain no
zeaxanthins. They do, however, contain 6 micrograms of luteins per
100 grams. Orange peppers, on the other hand, contain over 1600
micrograms of zeaxanthins per 100 grams.]



Another 2004 study from the Medical Center Eye Clinic, North
Chicago looked at 90 people over 12 months who had dry macular
degeneration. They took lutein supplements, lutein and antioxidant
supplements, or a placebo. As a result, the people who took lutein or
lutein with other minerals showed improvements in vision. There was
no change in the placebo group.

While results may be mixed for antioxidant supplements, there is
sufficient promise for researchers at the National Eye Institute to
thoroughly test whether nutritional supplements can help protect
against age-related macular degeneration. They tested supplements
through the Age-Related Eye Disease Studies (AREDS and AREDS2).

Preventing Macular Degeneration: Results from the AREDS and
AREDS2 Trials

Scientists came to some interesting conclusions when testing
nutritional supplements for the prevention of macular degeneration.

They discovered that a certain combination of high-dose vitamins and
minerals did in fact slow progression of the condition in people who
had intermediate age-related macular degeneration.

In the first AREDS trial, which followed around 3,600 people who
had early stage macular degeneration, a combination of vitamin C,
vitamin E, beta-carotene, zinc, and copper cut the risk of late macular
degeneration by 25 percent.

Moreover, the risk of developing central vision loss dropped by 19
percent.

In the second trial, AREDS2, researchers added lutein, zeaxanthin
and omega-3 fatty acids to the mix. They discovered that this did not
have any effect on the risk of macular degeneration. But they did
discover that replacing beta carotene with a 5-to-1 mix of lutein and
zeaxanthin did lower the subsequent risk of late macular
degeneration.

Exactly Which Supplements You Should Take and How Much

Here's the bottom line.  The most comprehensive studies on age-
related macular degeneration (AREDS and AREDS2) show that these
are the clinically effective daily doses of vitamins and minerals for
helping protect against age-related macular degeneration:

  •    500 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C


  •    80 mg zinc as zinc oxide

  •    2 mg copper as cupric oxide

  •    15 mg beta-carotene, OR 10 mg lutein and 2 mg zeaxanthin

If you are experiencing intermediate age-related macular
degeneration or you are at risk of late stage age-related macular
degeneration, then experts say you should consider taking a
supplement based on the exact proportions of these vitamins and
minerals.  

Remember, more does not always mean better--stick to the
recommended limits.

But always consult a professional before changing or adding
supplements to an existing treatment regime for vision loss.














































































Related:  
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How High Blood Pressure Affects Your Eyes

Why Am I Seeing Double?-Causes and Cures

What to Eat for Healthy Eyes

Stop Night Blindness-Vitamin A Deficiency and Foods That Help

The Whites of Your Eyes-Natural Remedies for Red, Yellow Brown  
and Gray Discolored Eyes

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Why Are My Eyes Burning?




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Mangoes are often reported to contain a
compound which helps to stave off
macular degeneration called zeaxanthin.
But studies don't bear this out. Instead
orange peppers are rich in the compound.