Retina And Vitreous
Macular Degeneration and Nutrition
Both doctors and the public have
shown growing interest in the relationship between diet
and health. Good nutrition depends on a healthy mixture
of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals.
Protein is needed for the building blocks and chemical
machinery of our bodies; carbohydrates are needed for
immediate fuel and energy; fats are needed for long term
storage of fuel and energy. Vitamins are organic
compounds that our bodies cannot manufacture but are
essential for maintaining good health. The eye, like any
other part of the body, benefits from a healthy diet.
Although the exact causes of macular degeneration are
not understood, there is some evidence that vitamins and
minerals may play a preventive role.
Macular degeneration is damage or breakdown of the
macula, the small part of the retina responsible for
central vision. It affects both distance and close
vision and can make some activities-like threading a
needle or reading-very difficult or impossible. Macular
degeneration is the leading cause of severe visual loss
in people over 65.
Zinc, one of the most common minerals in our body, is
very concentrated in the eye, particularly in the retina
and macula. Zinc is necessary for the action of over 100
enzymes, including chemical reactions in the retina.
Studies show some older people have low levels of zinc
in their blood. Because zinc is important for the health
of the macula, some think that supplements of zinc in
the diet may slow down the process of macular
degeneration. Scientific studies are not complete and
there is no agreement concerning the value of zinc
supplements. It is possible that too much zinc may
interfere with other trace minerals such as copper.
Normal chemical reactions from light in the eye activate
oxygen that may cause macular damage. Some vitamins
function as antioxidants that work against this
activated oxygen. It may be claimed that antioxidant
vitamins (vitamins A, C and E) can help slow down
macular degeneration and other aging problems. As in the
controversy over zinc, there is no agreement that these
antioxidants actually help macular degeneration.
The first step to overall good health is a balanced
diet. Vitamins and minerals are commonly given as
supplements to the diet in amounts determined by
recommended daily allowances. These supplementary
dosages cause no apparent harm and are commonly
available. Large doses of vitamins, called therapeutic
doses, in amounts many times the recommended daily
allowances, may not be completely safe.
Nutrition and macular degeneration is still being
researched. Consultation with your ophthalmologist
before beginning to take therapeutic doses of any
vitamin or mineral is advisable.
Macular dystrophy is a hereditary
condition in which the macula degenerates. The macula is
the part of your retina responsible for acute central
vision: the vision one uses to read, watch television,
and recognize faces.
Symptoms of macular dystrophy can range from minimal
vision loss and disturbance of color vision to profound
loss of reading and night vision. The most common types
of macular dystrophies, which tend to appear early in
life, are Best's disease, Staargardt's macular
dystrophy, and bull's eye maculopathy.
Considerable research is directed toward finding the
hereditary cause of many types of macular dystrophies.
With further research it may be possible to develop
medical treatments to prevent or slow the progression of
Low-vision devices can help affected individuals
continue with many of the activities of daily life.
Macular edema is swelling of the
macula, the small area of the retina responsible for central
vision. The edema is caused by fluid leaking from retinal
blood vessels. Central vision, used for reading and other
close detail work, is affected.
Because the macula is surrounded by many tiny blood vessels,
anything affecting them, such as a medical condition
affecting blood vessels elsewhere in the body or an abnormal
condition originating in the eye, can cause macular edema.
Retinal blood vessel obstruction, eye inflammation, and
age-related macular degeneration have all been associated
with macular edema. The macula may also be affected by
swelling following cataract extraction, though typically
this resolves itself naturally.
Treatment seeks to remedy the underlying cause of the edema.
Eyedrops, injections of cortisone around the eye or laser
surgery can be used to treat a macular edema. Recovery
depends on the severity of the condition causing the edema.