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How to Prevent Blindness and Macular Degeneration

It's no secret that age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness among the elderly in industrialized countries. It affects more than 10 percent of white adults over the age of 80, and is the number one cause of central vision loss for people 60 years of age and older in the United States.

What is age-related macular degeneration? Just what its name suggests - degeneration of the macula, which is located at the back of your eye in a tissue called the retina. Your maculae are what allow you to see fine details in the central portion of your field of vision. This is why people with even the most advanced cases of macular degeneration do not experience total blindness - some peripheral vision is almost always maintained as long as there isn't a concurrent condition that affects peripheral vision.

Degeneration of the macula begins to occur when a protective layer called the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) begins to break down. In a healthy eye, the RPE acts as a protective filter that allows nutrients to pass through to reach the macula while preventing the passage of waste materials and other harmful substances.

As the RPE begins to break down, waste materials and other harmful substances can erode the macula. Thinning of the macula in this manner is what can precipitate blurred, dim, or distorted central vision, all of which are common initial symptoms of macular degeneration. This is also known as the dry phase of macular degeneration.

Sometimes, the damage that occurs with waste materials coming into contact with the macula can cause significant inflammation, leading to the formation of tiny blood vessels and even causing leakage of tissue fluid into the area. This is also known as the wet phase of macular degeneration.

As with most health conditions, it is impossible to know every single cause of macular degeneration. The retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) is like any other group of cells in your body in that it can deteriorate due to any number of factors, the most common of which are:

  • Consistent presence of incompletely digested chains of amino acids in your blood, which can trigger the production of antibodies, which can in turn, cause damage to the RPE
  • Consistent exposure to significant amounts of exogenous (produced outside of your body) toxins - for many women, cosmetics - especially lipstick and other facial make-up - are the most significant and dangerous source of exogenous toxins
  • Regular production of endogenous (produced inside of your body) toxins due to poor digestion
  • Regular consumption of unhealthy fats and oils
  • Regular consumption of sugar and highly processed foods
  • Emotional stress
  • Regular exposure to first or second-hand cigarette smoke

Two Steps That Can Help To Prevent Blindness and Macular Degeneration

Clearly, the first step to preventing and treating macular degeneration is to address each of the factors listed above.

The second step is to make sure that you are regularly eating healthy foods that provide an abundance of naturally occurring vitamins and minerals, particularly foods that are rich in vitamin C, vitamin E, beta carotene, and zinc.

Vitamin C, Vitamin E, beta carotene, and zinc have antioxidant properties that a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found to be especially effective in fighting the cellular changes that occur with macular degeneration. I was pleased to see that the study noted that "Foods high in these nutrients appear to be more important than nutritional supplements."

As with all other health conditions, I know of no short cuts to preventing and treating age-related macular degeneration. The best way to prevent and treat macular degeneration is to take care of your overall health while paying special attention to the points listed above.

 
 

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