My 65-year-old mother has been diagnosed with macular degeneration and she has already lost some of her vision and can no longer see faces clearly. Is it true that diet can help manage it? What do you recommend?
It’s true, a healthy diet can play a major role in helping to prevent and treat the eye disease macular degeneration. Macular degeneration is a painless, degenerative disease that affects the retina leading to loss of central vision , making it hard to see faces or read. In Australia it’s the leading cause of vision loss. While smoking, environmental factors and family history play a role, it’s also thought that our diet clearly affects risk.
We now know eating plenty of anti oxidants like colourful fruit and vegetables , fish and nuts help prevent eye damage. In particular, antioxidants like Lutein and Zeaxanthin found in green leafy vegetables like spinach and yellow fruits and vegetables like corn and capscium are thought to help. Eating fish 2 to 3 times a week may also be beneficial as the omega 3 fatty acids also may reduce inflammation and progression of the disease.
If someone has a more advanced type of Macular Degeneration, it’s worth talking to their doctor about a further nutritional supplement that follows what is called the AREDS formula. This contains a combination of zinc, Vitamin C, Vitamin E , Beta-carotene and copper. Of course there are other steps that can be taken to generally improve our general eye health which include quitting smoking and getting regular eye check ups from the age of 40.
Early detection and treatment of macular degeneration can make all the difference to preserving sight. If you would like more information go to Macular Degeneration Foundation
Dr Caroline West is a GP with an interest in healthy lifestyle medicine. Currently she is the President of the Australian Lifestyle Medicine Association. She practices at East Sydney Doctors
Dr West is also a spokesperson for World Sight Day held on the second Thursday in October each year. World Sight Day is a global initiative raising the profile of causes of blindness and vision impairment. The focus this year is on prevention.