Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is one of those medical conditions which most people have never heard of, but which is far commoner than you may believe. The National Health Service estimates that as many as half a million people in the United Kingdom live with AMD, which is the number one cause of sight problems in older people in the UK – 1 in 10 of everyone over the age of 65 will have the condition to some degree. Most people simply accept that their vision is going to deteriorate as they age, and given that there is no cure for the main type of AMD, it can be tempting to accept that AMD is inevitable.
There is however growing evidence that choosing to eat certain things and taking supplements can keep your eyesight better for longer.
What exactly is AMD?
AMD is a painless condition affecting those over fifty years of age, which increasingly leads to substantial vision problems. A person’s eyesight becomes blurred, and they may have problems reading or even recognising people they know well. Often it is just the central vision which is affected, the gradual deterioration of sight is a slow process. There are two main types of AMD which are termed “dry” and “wet”. Dry AMD might only occur in one eye, and is usually treated by adjusting to the condition with brighter lighting or magnifying glasses. Wet AMD usually occurs in patients who already have the other type of the condition, and involves a more acute deterioration in vision, blind spots, or visual distortion. The symptoms of this sort of AMD can be controlled by drugs or laser surgery to some extent.
Causes of AMD
As the name suggests, the main cause of age-related macular deterioration is getting older. As we age, muscles in the eyes can start to thicken and this can over time cause the muscles to stop working. With wet AMD, new blood vessels can start to grow underneath the macula in the eye and can leak blood or fluid into the eye.
There is also thought to be a strong genetic link in risks for developing Age-Related Macular Degeneration. The genes in question are part of the body’s immune immune response which is known commonly as the complement system.. If the genes in this system are subject to certain changes this can significantly increase a person’s chance of developing Age-Related Macular Degeneration, although science been unable to find out why these genetic mutations lead to the damage to the retina and loss of vision that Age-Related Macular Degeneration is known for.
Other Age-Related Macular Degeneration causes
Being obese and drinking large quantities of alcohol are also risk factors. Smokers are at significant more risk of developing AMD, with those that smoke and genetically predisposed to the condition can be up to twenty times more likely to develop the condition as those who do not smoke and have the specific gene makeup. It is thought that smoking causes ‘oxidative stress’, causing free radicals to attack the body.
Excessive alcohol consumption is also thought to be a cause of Age-Related Macular Degeneration, and this has been shown in a number of scientific studies. Drinking more than the recommended daily amount of alcohol is thought to increase the risk of developing Age-Related Macular Degeneration by up to 20%, although slight to moderate alcohol consumption in some studies has shown a possible protective effect.
Prevention of Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Although there is nothing that can be done to prevent two of the causes of Age-Related Macular Degeneration (genetics and age), stopping smoking and reducing your alcohol intake can help reduce your chance of developing the disease
There is also strong growing evidence that diet and nutrition can be used to halt the progress of AMD, or to stop it from developing in the first place. Eating foods high in vitamins A, C or E and taking supplements such as T&N Health Provision can reduce risk. Foods which fall into this category include green leafy vegetables, oranges and carrots.
The use of Zinc has been one of the most exciting developments and has been found to help halt the progress of Age-Related Macular Degeneration. Zinc can be harder to get through nutrition, although it can be found in foods like meat, shellfish, cheese and some wheat based foods. This can be a challenge for those people whose diets are restricted for ethical or religious reasons, and therefore supplements are often an excellent alternative. There have also been numerous investigations which show that Zinc can help guard against other health issues, such as the common cold and ear infections, which means making Zinc supplements a part of your daily life can be a powerful tool in remaining fit and healthy.