Q: My dad was diagnosed with macular degeneration; is there anything he can do to prevent further vision loss?

The most common cause of vision loss in Canada is macular degeneration. It causes one in three cases of reported vision loss. The most common form of the disease occurs in people over 55 and is called age-related macular degeneration or AMD.

The macula makes up a small portion of the retina, which is the light-sensitive tissue that lines the back of the eye. The macula processes the details in the central part of our vision and allows us to see fine details and colours and to function in daylight.

AMD is a complex disorder that involves genetic, cardiovascular, environmental, and nutritional components. After aging, smoking remains the most significant risk factor for AMD. Smoking is known to deplete serum antioxidants and is associated with lower levels of macular lutein and zeaxanthin. Environmental risk factors include exposure to ultraviolet light and blue light.

Studies have demonstrated that nutritional supplementation can play a key role in reducing the progression of AMD and improve visual acuity. The Age-Related Eye Disease Study concluded that a blend of simple antioxidants could slow the development of AMD and substantially reduce the risk of vision loss.

These findings were corroborated when the Lutein Antioxidant Supplementation Trial (LAST) demonstrated that lutein alone, or lutein in combination with antioxidants, significantly improved most measures of quality of vision.

Lutein is a carotenoid and is a primary constituent of macular pigment. It protects the eye by blocking harmful blue light and scavenging free radicals that may damage photoreceptor cells. Foods high in lutein include kale, spinach, collard greens, romaine lettuce, zucchini, and corn. Marigold flowers are a common source of lutein for supplements.

Taking action and supplementing with these specialized nutrients may help to bring your eyesight back into focus.

About the Author

Peter Karner is a homeopath and nutritionist with a focus on research and education.