February is Low Vision Awareness Month, a campaign to raise awareness for vision problems.
Macular degeneration (most often referred to as age-related macular degeneration, or AMD), is a leading cause of vision loss affecting two million Americans over the age of 50. For the vast majority of those with AMD there is no known cure, but research has shown that a diet rich in the compounds lutein and zeaxanthin protect the macula and may prevent AMD or slow the progression of AMD in certain patients.
According to research, lutein and zeaxanthin comprise a component of the central region of the retina. Consumption of fruits and vegetables rich in lutein and zeaxanthin increase the concentration of these compounds in the eye and may prevent the devastating vision loss caused by AMD.
Luckily, a wide variety of fruits and vegetables contain high levels of these compounds including dark green leafy vegetables like kale and spinach, broccoli, corn, peas, beans, celery, oranges, tangerines and peaches.
Other research suggests that people who eat fish three times a week have a lower incidence of AMD. Fish contain omega-3 which is a critical nutrient for the eyes (as well as heart). Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, lake trout and sardines are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids.
Your best bet is to get these nutrients from food. At the present time, there is insufficient evidence to recommend routine nutrition supplementation in healthy adults for prevention of AMD. But if you have macular degeneration, there is a proven supplement that may slow the progression and the vision loss.
The symptoms of AMD include blurred or fuzzy vision, the illusion that straight lines are wavy and the appearance of a dark area in the center of vision. Any of these symptoms should be discussed with your eye doctor. Beware of companies that claim to have a cure or a supplement to reverse AMD. There is no research to support these claims.
Reducing your risk of AMD and maintaining your precious eyesight comes down to eating plenty of vegetables, fruits and fish on a regular basis. The American Optometric Association also recommends people reduce risks by wearing sun protection to limit ultraviolet exposure, stopping smoking and moderating alcohol consumption.