Antioxidants and Nutritional Supplements for Macular Degeneration

Antioxidants and nutritional suppliments have been shown to lessen the effects of free radicals.  It has been speculated that macular degeneration may be associated with the build-up of free radicals in the retina as high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids accumulate.  Antioxidants can neutralize the free radicals before they have a chance to harm the sensitive tissue in the eye.

Consistent exposure to the sun causes damage to the eye, which can trigger oxidative damage to the eye.  This in turn can lead to the development of macular degeneration.  Using antioxidants to counter the oxidative damage can lower the risks associated with macular degeneration.
Age-related Macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the leading causes of visual impairment and blindness.  Macular degeneration exists in two forms – wet and dry macular degeneration.  The most common form of this eye disease is dry macular degeneration.  There is no standardised treatment for dry macular degeneration but there are antioxidants and nutritional supplements that can help prevent both forms of the eye disease.

Two of the most helpful antioxidants for combating macular degeneration are found in the caratenoid group of antioxidants.  The antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin have been shown to be the most effective against this eye disease.

Lutein accumulates in the very centre of the retina and filters out blue light.  This acts in protecting the rods, cones, and epithelial layer of the retina from the damage caused by unfiltered sunlight.  The antioxidant lutein may actually act as a pair of sunglasses – the more sunlight you are exposed to, the more lutein is used protecting the eye.  For this reason, many advocate replentishing lutein with nutritional supplements and Wearing sunglasses that filter out ultraviolet light.  This can help to preserve levels of lutein allowing it to fight oxidative stress that occurs in the eye.  Zeaxanthin is also found in high levels in the eyes and also protects the eye against the damage that is caused by sunlight.

Other nutritional supplements such as Vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, and beta-carotene are also antioxidants that may help protect against macular degeneration.  The people with the highest levels of these antioxidants in their blood have been shown to be at the lowest risk of developing the eye disease macular degeneration.

Another antioxidant supplement that can be beneficial in the fight against macular degeneration is Zinc.  Zinc is another antioxidant that may be beneficial as it is needed by two important enzymes in the retina that are required for vision.

Flavenoids can also be helpful in preventing and managing macular degeneration.  Other nutritional components such as flavenoids can be found in red wine, or in dark berries such as blueberries and blackberries.  The useful flavenoids in this case are quercetin, rutin, and resveritrol.

There has been a lot of research showing that omega 3 fatty acids and its associated nutritional supplemetns are helpful when dealing with macular degeneration.  Because the body cannot manufacture these, they must be obtained from the diet and as such, dietary and nutritional supplements play a key role.  Consuming omega 3 nutritional supplements, commonly found in oily fish and enriched eggs, several times a week or more may reduce the risk of developing macular degeneration.

Consuming antioxidants through a diet that is rich in a variety of fruits and vegetables, or through nutritional supplements can reduce the risk of macular degeneration and may be an important factor in the prevention of this eye disease. Nutritional supplements may be useful if you already suffer from macular degeneration as it may slow the progression of the eye disease.  Discuss the use of nutritional supplements with your eye care professional.

Supplementing your diet with certain herbs can also help in the prevention of macular degeneration.  Some herbs that have a particular affinity for the eye and thus can be helpful in the prevention of the eye disease.  These include:

Gingko – this can help to treat the early stages of macular degeneration.  It contains flavenoids, antioxidants that are helpful to the eye.

Bilberry – contains active flavenoid compounds called anthocyanosides, which act as antioxidants in the retina.  It also strengthens the capillaries and reduces bleeding in the retina.

While it is important to remember that there is no known cure or treatment for dry macular degeneration, people can reduce the risk associated with this eye disease by taking preventative measures, including nutrional supplements and antioxidants from a variety of natural sources and dietary sources.  Preventing and managing age related macular degeneration through such means could mean healthy vision for years.  Even with these safeguards, limiting the exposure to direct sunlight to the eye will mean less risk for developing macular degeneration and other eye diseases.