Age Related Macular Degeneration(AMD)

This is a condition which we will all come to hear a lot about over the next few years.  At the moment, it is the leading cause of blindness in the over 65's. We are all part of an aging population, and as a result the incidence of this condition will increase. AMD can be thought of as "wear and tear" at the back of the eye. We all have a fine layer of pigment at the back of our eye which helps keep our central vision sharp and clear.  As we age, this pigment layer thins especially in our critical macular area and so results in loss of our central vision.  This pigment layer is made up of naturally occuring antioxidants which can be obtained from our diet.  An enormous amount of research has been done into this condition and this work continues.  This research has concentrated on two main areas: Cause and Treatment.

Some of us are genetically more predisposed to this condition but researchers have identified some modifiable risk factors:


Research has shown that poeple who smoke can be up to 5 times more likely to develop AMD than those who don't.  Smoking releases free radicals into our bodies. These harmful molecules bombard the delicate pigment layer and thin it, leaving it more susceptible to aging and stress. Also, smoking restricts blood flow to the pigment layer at the macula. As a result less nutrients are carried to the eye which hinders repair.






While we can obtain these antioxidants from our diet, some individuals may find it difficult to include these foods in their diets so nutritional supplements are also available. Some of the more common supplements are Ocuvite, Vitalux plus and Macushield. Currently, only Macushield contains all three of the antioxidents required at the Macula. Deirdre Cooke Opticians stock Macushield and any of our opticians would be happy to discuss the benefits of taking this supplement with you. Remember -  nutritional supplements are not a substitute for good food and a well  balanced diet and they should not be taken this way.


The pigment layer at the macula has been shown to contain three different antioxidents. These are Lutein, Zeaxanthin and Mesozeaxanthin. These pigments are found naturally in fruit and vegetables. Green leafy vegetables such as cabbage, spinach and curly kale are all good sources, especially of lutein. Brightly coloured fruit and vegetables like Bell peppers and corn are also good. These foods should be cooked lightly if at all and well chewed to extract the maximum amount of antioxidents from them. Good diet from early in life is important, but it is never too late to make changes. Mesozeaxanthin is harder to obtain from dietary sources but is found in Salmon.



Sunlight introduces molecules called free radicals into the eye and as mentioned previously, these damage the delicate pigment layer. New research indicates that the sun's High Energy Visible ( HEV) radiation - also known as blue light - may increase our long term risk of developing AMD. This is especially true in patients who have low blood plasma levels of antioxidents. HEV rays penetrate deeply into the eye and can cause retinal damage.  You should ensure that any sunglasses you purchase are maked 100% UV blocking. Choosing sunglasses with an amber or copper tint will also help eleminate more of this blue light. Wide brimmed sunhats also help keep harmful rays away from the eyes.


Regular exercise will help improve our cardiovascular fitness.  As a result the eye will receive better blood flow and so more nutrients will be carried to the eye and the retinal pigment layer.


Regular eye examinations are also recommended so that your Optician can advise on the health of the back of your eye and inform you if there are any early indications of AMD.

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