It is the No 1 cause of vision loss in the over fifties – more common than glaucoma – and affects around half a million people in the UK. As shown in the picture, it damages your central vision affecting your ability to see faces, read, watch television and drive. It won’t affect your side vision so, whilst a visual handicap, it is not blinding.
Like Glaucoma there are two main types of AMD:
……… Sudden onset (or Wet)
……… Slow onset (or Dry)
Risk factors – these include age, family history of AMD, pale eye colour. All of these you can do nothing about.
Being overweight has an effect on your Cholesterol, blood pressure and ability to exercise. Loosing a few pounds helps with all the above.
Smoking increases your chances of getting AMD more than all the above. Stopping is the single best thing to reduce your risk.
A diet high in refined sugars and fats doesn’t help.
Not eating enough dark green veg, other coloured fruit and veg or fish
Not having regular eye tests
Not protecting your eyes from the sun by wearing CE marked sunglasses and UV absorbing spectacles, if worn.
Wet AMD is less common than Dry AMD
but …….. gets more publicity because it can be aggressive and have a devastating effect on vision in a short time period.
but …….. in the last decade new treatments have helped, the main one being Lucentis.
Lucentis is very expensive per treatment and accounts for 1% of the NHS drug budget (£90million). Each treatment costs about £1000 for the drug alone and can require several months of treatment.
……. 1 in 3 are unresponsive to treatment
……. but 2 out of 3 improve!
DRY AMD: ‘at the moment there is no treatment for dry AMD’. (RNIB website)
‘a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables is good for your general health and may (my emphasis) also help your eye health.’ (RNIB website)
but …….. is this advice too pessimistic?
Research and experience over the last ten years demonstrates that a lot can be done. Scientists now believe that up to 50% of early to moderate DRY AMD can be halted or improved by taking appropriate action.
So what is DRY AMD? It is far more common and quite different to WET – it progresses slowly, tending to affect at an older age and is a breakdown in the removal of waste from our light sensing cells. It is possible for DRY AMD to turn to WET.
It is now well documented that certain foods in adequate quantities help provide the eye with the tools to prevent or reduce this waste accumulation. These vision preserving tools are known as caretinoids and are vitamin A-like compounds. The knowledge that certain foods are beneficial has been known since the early 1990s. However, scientists have been cautious about making claims about them till the process has been better understood.
So, what are these foods?
Dark green leafy vegetables – spinach, kale, broccoli, sprouts, green beans, peas – provide us with LUTEIN
Coloured vegetables & fruits like Mango, sweetcorn, red Apple, orange, kiwi, orange & green pepper, red grapes: provide us with ZEAXANTHIN
AND at least a weekly portion of fish ( mackerel, tuna, salmon, herring). These supply omega 3s which help reduce inflammation and are involved in delivering essential nutrients to the eye.
Egg also is a good source of both essential caretinoids, so egg two-three times a week, is a great addition. (Egg was previously frowned on as it was thought bad for your cholesterol – this is now known not to be the case).
It is possible that you can supplement your diet by taking carefully formulated eye supplements. These have been developed over the last fifteen years or so and are based on large scale AMD studies and other scientific data. I believe it is better to improve your diet first as there is little cost in doing so. You can have your macular pigment measured and monitored, if not adequate or improving, supplementation can be considered.
The above pictures are of the same eye, taken about a year apart, before and after a change of diet. The one on the Left has yellow/white spots (called drusen – trapped cellular waste or DRY AMD) which are mostly absent from the Right picture.