Category Archives: macular degeneration

Macular degeneration and diet

What is macular degeneration?

Macular degeneration affects one in seven Australians over the age of 50[i]. It is the leading cause of blindness and vision loss in the country, being responsible for 50% of all blindness; more than glaucoma and cataracts combined.

The macula is a part of the eye, which is responsible for giving you the clearest vision. In macular degeneration, the cells in this area become irreversibly damaged and the result is a loss of vision.

There are two forms of this condition – wet macular degeneration and dry macular degeneration. There is no cure for either type of macular degeneration right now, but your optometrist can inform you about the different treatment options that can help to reduce vision loss for those with wet macular degeneration. In Australia, smoking is a major cause of blindness from macular degeneration[ii].

Why diet and vitamins are important for your eye health

Eating too many saturated fats has been shown to increase the advancement of macular degeneration[iii]. Saturated fat is found in foods such as beef, pork, lamb, butter, cream and high-fat cheeses as well as fast/takeaway/processed foods.

On the other hand, people who enjoy a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and fish have a lower incidence of macular degeneration[iv].

Carrots and celery

Protective plant pigments

Vegetables and fruits help to protect against macular degeneration. They contain antioxidant vitamins (such as vitamin C) and also antioxidant-rich pigments, one of which is lutein. Lutein is found in leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, mustard greens and collard greens (the darker the leaf, the more concentrated the pigments). Brightly coloured vegetables and fruits are especially rich in pigments – these include red grapes, oranges, rockmelons and mangoes. Orange produce contains the pigment beta-carotene, which helps to protect your eyes. Try and opt for five servings of veggies and two fruits daily. A serving is equivalent to ½ cup of most foods and one cup for leafy greens.

Make more of fish

Fish is also good for your eye health – eating fish has been shown to lower the risk for macular degeneration[v]. The recommended intake of fish is two to three times a week and the best types of fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and sardines.  If you don’t eat fish, think about taking a daily omega-3 supplement. Speak to your local pharmacist about the best option for you.

Salmon

What about supplements?

A specific supplement for eyes may help to protect your eye health; it may also help to reduce vision loss in people who have moderate macular degeneration. Supplements have not been shown to be beneficial in patients who do not have macular degeneration, or have only mild macular degeneration. Talk to your optometrist to find out more.

About the author

Jane Le is qualified in ocular therapeutics and has been an optometrist since 2006. She has worked extensively across Australia and as a volunteer optometrist in El Salvador and in Mexico.

Optometrist Jane Le
Jane Le, optometrist at rt healthy eyes

 

 

[i] Macular Disease Foundation Australia. Deloitte Access Economic Report. http://www.mdfoundation.com.au/mdfreport.aspx

[ii] Australian Government. Smoking Causes Blindness. http://www.quitnow.gov.au/internet/quitnow/publishing.nsf/content/warnings-b-eye

[iii] PubMed – NCBI. Progression of age-related macular degeneration: association with dietary fat, transunsaturated fat, nuts and fish intake. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14662593

[iv] AMD.org. Diet And Vitamins for AMD. http://www.amd.org/can-diet-and-vitamins-help-macular-degeneration/

[v] University of Maryland Medical Center. Omega-3 fatty acids. http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/omega3-fatty-acids

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Have your eyes tested – it could save your sight!

When was the last time you had your eyes checked? If you have to think hard about when your last eye appointment was, chances are that it’s been too long.

This week is Macular Degeneration Awareness Week and it’s a timely reminder to organise a simple eye check – it could go a long way to helping preserve your sight!

Here are eight questions and answers about how protecting your macula (the tiny area in your eyes) could protect your vision.

  1. What is Macular Degeneration (MD)?

MD is the leading cause of blindness and severe vision loss in people over 40 in Australia[i]. A group of degenerative Stock-image-elderly-couple_xxl-15diseases, MD causes progressive, painless loss of central vision. Although there is no cure for MD, a number of treatments can slow its progression. The earlier MD is detected, the better the outcome as far as your vision is concerned.

  1. So what exactly is the macula?

The macula is the central light sensitive tissues of the retina. Located at the back of the eye, it contains the highest density of light detecting cells and the area is responsible for central vision (rather than peripheral vision).

  1. What does it do?

The macula processes vision in the centre of your eyes enabling you to recognise people, see colours and allows you to carry out the kind of fine image sight you need to carry out processes like driving.

  1. Who’s affected by MD?

About one million Australians are affected by MD[ii], that’s around one in seven Aussies over age 50[iii]. Macular Disease Foundation Australia Chief Executive, Julie Heraghty, says that regular testing is vital stressing that without appropriate prevention and treatment, the number of people affected will rise to 1.7 million by 2030 as our population gets older[iv]. Surprisingly, although 85 per cent of Australians over 50 know that macular degeneration affects the eyes, one in four hadn’t had their eyes/macula checked within the last two years, reports Ms Heraghty.

  1. Should I see my optometrist?

All Australians over 50 should see their optometrist for a full eye check as should people who smoke and those with a family history of the disease. Your optometrist will complete a thorough eye check and may advise more frequent visits.

  1. What are the symptoms?

You can’t easily self-diagnose eye problems related to early MD. But, it’s extra important to see your optometrist if you have any of these four Ds:

  • Difficulty reading or with other activities that require fine vision
  • Distortion – where straight lines look wavy or bent
  • Distinguishing faces is becoming a problem
  • Dark patches or empty spaces appear in the centre of your vision.
  1. Stock-image-breaking-cigaretteWhat about lifestyle habits? Smokers are particularly susceptible to MD. That’s because chemicals in tobacco affect the metabolism of the retina triggering faster or premature ageing of the eye. If you smoke, you risk gradually losing your central vision, which could eventually lead to blindness. Your GP can provide you with effective techniques to quit smoking.
  1. What about diet?

As well as regular eye checks, a healthy diet and lifestyle can help to reduce the chance of developing MD …

  • Go green

Most days, try to eat some form of leafy greens – such as spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and Chinese greens. They contain two key eye-protecting antioxidants called lutein (loo-teen) and zeaxanthin (zee-a-zan-thin), which are concentrated in your macula. Go for around a cup of leafy veggies daily. Try stir-frying with a little extra virgin olive oil to help your body to absorb these nutrients more effectively.

  • Nibble nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds contain vitamin E and zinc, key antioxidant protectors of your eyes. Go for a mixed handful of almonds, Brazil nuts and pumpkin seeds. Flax and chia seeds are good options as they contain omega-3 fats, which lubricate cells and decrease inflammation.

  • Make fish your dish

Around twice a week, try to opt for fish. Oily fish like salmon, fresh tuna and sardines contain essential omega-3 fats. They’re called essential as your body can’t make them for itself and you have to get them from your diet.

  • Fresh fruits and veggies

The bright colours of fruit signify that they are loaded with antioxidant pigments as well as vitamin C, both of which help to iStock_000025526734_Double-(1)protect all your body cells from oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can lead to long-term problems like inflammation, which in turn damages body cells.

  • Go low GI

Processed white foods like white bread, pasta, flour and rice can raise your blood glucose before causing it to dip. Eating too many white carbohydrate foods is associated with an increased risk of macular degeneration. So go wholegrain when you can.

On top of all these, protect your eyes from the sun’s rays, come in and get your eyes tested regularly and help protect your vision.

For more information about macular degeneration call the Macular Disease Foundation Australia on 1800 111 709 or visit www.mdfoundation.com.au.

Due for a check-up? Book an eye test with our qualified optometrists at rt healthy eyes today. We’re open to – and we welcome – everyone!

Call rt healthy eyes Surry Hills: 1300 991 044

Call rt healthy eyes Charlestown: 1300 782 571

Ravinder Lilly-edited
Ravinder Lilly, Dietitian at rt health fund

[i] http://www.visionaustralia.org/eye-health/eye-conditions/age-related-macular-degeneration

[ii] http://www.mdfoundation.com.au/mdfreport.aspx

[iii] http://www.mdfoundation.com.au/resources/12/MDFA_Annual_Report_web_2012_13.pdf

[iv] http://www.mdfoundation.com.au/page12204136.aspx