Macular degeneration is a condition of the eye in which the cells in the macula slowly deteriorate and affect healthy vision. The macula is a small area located near the center of the retina. As vision is the sharpest in the macula, deterioration affects central vision, which impacts the ability to read and write, drive, and distinguish faces. Macular degeneration does not have an effect on peripheral vision.
There are two forms of macular degeneration: dry and wet, with 90 percent of people having the dry form. With this version, small, yellow spots (or drusens) form underneath the macular. These are believed to be a byproduct of a lack of antioxidants which control impurities in those with healthy vision. The drusens cause progressive breakdown of the cells in the macular which result in distorted vision. Dry macular degeneration can lead to the much more serious wet form. With this form, atypical blood vessels appear and begin to grow toward the macular, causing swift and severe loss of vision.
It is believed that macular degeneration stems from oxidation caused by free radicals, which are a product of metabolism and are formed when ultraviolet and blue sunlight rays pass through the crystalline lens of the eye. Macular degeneration has also been linked to heredity, poor digestion and nutritional deficiency. Those afflicted with macular degeneration are often lacking in nutrients that are essential to eye health. Certain nutritional supplements for vision have been shown to prevent or help stop the progression of macular degeneration.
According to a study published in the 2001 Archives of Ophthalmology, antioxidants and zinc are supplements for vision that appear to be an effective treatment for macular degeneration. It was shown that high levels of these supplements can significantly reduce the risk of advanced macular degeneration and resulting loss of vision. The Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) found that treatment with high doses of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene and zinc reduced the risk of developing advanced AMD by 25 percent in those within a high-risk group. People within this group have intermediate AMD in one or both eyes or have advanced AMD in one eye. Subjects with early AMD or no AMD did not significantly benefit from the antioxidant and zinc treatment.
The study shows that nutrition plays an essential role in helping to maintain healthy vision in people with a high risk of developing advanced AMD. Other important supplements for vision and possible prevention of macular degeneration are vitamin B-complex, vitamin D, lutein, taurine, zeaxanthin, omega 3 fish oil, selenium, and plant extracts like gingko biloba and bilberry.