Macular Degeneration, Cataracts, Diabetic Retinopathy

How You Can Preserve Your Eyesight Starting Today!

Quick… Which of these Three Vegetables Protect Your Eyes Best?
Carrots?
Pumpkin… or
Spinach?

Write Your Answer Down and then read the article here.

We have all heard the old joke…

“Want better vision? Eat carrots.”

“Carrots?”

“Yeah, ever see a rabbit wearing glasses?”

It is true there are substances found in foods that can protect your eyesight. In fact the pigment (the coloring in your eye) is something that protects your sight.

But believe it or not there are some substances found in foods that can protect, really protect your eyes!

Continue reading about them here…

As we age, these substances in our eyes degenerate which can lead to all sorts of vision problems, including: Macular Degeneration, Cataracts, and if you are diabetic Diabetic Retinopathy.

From an article entitled: Measurement of Macular Pigment: Raman Spectroscopy versus Heterochromatic Flicker Photometry authored by Kumari Neelam,1,2 Nicholas O’Gorman,1 John Nolan,1 Orla O’Donovan,1 Hwee Bee Wong,3 Kah Guan Au Eong,4 and Stephen Beatty1,2

You can read the entire article here www.iovs.org/cgi/reprint/46/3/1023.pdf

What is Macular Pigment

Macular pigment (MP), composed of two dietary xanthophylls,lutein (L) and zeaxanthin (Z), forms a characteristic yellow spot in the center of the primate macula. (1) The spatial distribution of MP varies across the retina, with a peak density in the central 1° to 2°, and declines to negligible levels by 5° to 10° eccentricity. (2) Within the layer structure of the retina, MP is maximally concentrated in the Henle fiber layer of the fovea.

Before we go into the solid protection for your eyes you can easily get from everyday foods, let’s first get some better understandings of these eye problems.

And to do that… let’s turn it over to the experts at the National Institute of Health.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) Defined

From: http://www.nei.nih.gov/health/maculardegen/armd_facts.asp

What is age-related macular degeneration?

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a disease associated with aging that gradually destroys sharp, central vision. Central vision is needed for seeing objects clearly and for common daily tasks such as reading and driving.

AMD affects the macula, the part of the eye that allows you to see fine detail. AMD causes no pain.

In some cases, AMD advances so slowly that people notice little change in their vision. In others, the disease progresses faster and may lead to a loss of vision in both eyes. AMD is a leading cause of vision loss in Americans 60 years of age and older.

AMD occurs in two forms: wet and dry.

Where is the macula?

The macula is located in the center of the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. The retina instantly converts light, or an image, into electrical impulses. The retina then sends these impulses, or nerve signals, to the brain.

Symptoms and Detection

What are the symptoms?

Both dry and wet AMD cause no pain.

For dry AMD: the most common early sign is blurred vision. As fewer cells in the macula are able to function, people will see details less clearly in front of them, such as faces or words in a book. Often this blurred vision will go away in brighter light. If the loss of these light-sensing cells becomes great, people may see a small — but growing — blind spot in the middle of their field of vision.

For wet AMD: the classic early symptom is that straight lines appear crooked. This results when fluid from the leaking blood vessels gathers and lifts the macula, distorting vision. A small blind spot may also appear in wet AMD, resulting in loss of one’s central vision.

How is AMD detected?

Your eye care professional may suspect AMD if you are over age 60 and have had recent changes in your central vision. To look for signs of the disease, he or she will use eye drops to dilate, or enlarge, your pupils. Dilating the pupils allows your eye care professional to view the back of the eye better.

Cataract Defined

From: http://www.nei.nih.gov/health/cataract/cataract_facts.asp

What is a cataract?

A cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye that affects vision. Most cataracts are related to aging. Cataracts are very common in older people. By age 80, more than half of all Americans either have a cataract or have had cataract surgery.

A cataract can occur in either or both eyes. It cannot spread from one eye to the other.

What is the Lens?

The lens is a clear part of the eye that helps to focus light, or an image, on the retina. The retina is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye.

In a normal eye, light passes through the transparent lens to the retina. Once it reaches the retina, light is changed into nerve signals that are sent to the brain.

The lens must be clear for the retina to receive a sharp image. If the lens is cloudy from a cataract, the image you see will be blurred.

Are there other types of cataract?

Yes. Although most cataracts are related to aging, there are other types of cataract:

  1. Secondary cataract. Cataracts can form after surgery for other eye problems, such as glaucoma. Cataracts also can develop in people who have other health problems, such as diabetes. Cataracts are sometimes linked to steroid use.
  2. Traumatic cataract. Cataracts can develop after an eye injury, sometimes years later.
  3. Congenital cataract. Some babies are born with cataracts or develop them in childhood, often in both eyes. These cataracts may be so small that they do not affect vision. If they do, the lenses may need to be removed.
  4. Radiation cataract. Cataracts can develop after exposure to some types of radiation.

Causes and Risk Factors

What causes cataracts?

The lens lies behind the iris and the pupil. It works much like a camera lens. It focuses light onto the retina at the back of the eye, where an image is recorded. The lens also adjusts the eye’s focus, letting us see things clearly both up close and far away. The lens is made of mostly water and protein. The protein is arranged in a precise way that keeps the lens clear and lets light pass through it.

But as we age, some of the protein may clump together and start to cloud a small area of the lens. This is a cataract. Over time, the cataract may grow larger and cloud more of the lens, making it harder to see.

Researchers suspect that there are several causes of cataract, such as smoking and diabetes. Or, it may be that the protein in the lens just changes from the wear and tear it takes over the years.

Age-related cataracts can affect your vision in two ways:

  1. Clumps of protein reduce the sharpness of the image reaching the retina.
    The lens consists mostly of water and protein. When the protein clumps up, it clouds the lens and reduces the light that reaches the retina. The clouding may become severe enough to cause blurred vision. Most age-related cataracts develop from protein clumpings.
    When a cataract is small, the cloudiness affects only a small part of the lens. You may not notice any changes in your vision. Cataracts tend to “grow” slowly, so vision gets worse gradually. Over time, the cloudy area in the lens may get larger, and the cataract may increase in size. Seeing may become more difficult. Your vision may get duller or blurrier.
  2. The clear lens slowly changes to a yellowish/brownish color, adding a brownish tint to vision.
    As the clear lens slowly colors with age, your vision gradually may acquire a brownish shade. At first, the amount of tinting may be small and may not cause a vision problem. Over time, increased tinting may make it more difficult to read and perform other routine activities. This gradual change in the amount of tinting does not affect the sharpness of the image transmitted to the retina.
    If you have advanced lens discoloration, you may not be able to identify blues and purples. You may be wearing what you believe to be a pair of black socks, only to find out from friends that you are wearing purple socks.

Who is at risk for cataract?

The risk of cataract increases as you get older.

Other Risk Factors for Cataract Include:

  • Certain diseases such as diabetes.
  • Personal behavior such as smoking and alcohol use.
  • The environment such as prolonged exposure to sunlight.

The most common symptoms of a cataract are:

  • Cloudy or blurry vision.
  • Colors seem faded.
  • Glare. Headlights, lamps, or sunlight may appear too bright. A halo may appear around lights.
  • Poor night vision.
  • Double vision or multiple images in one eye. Note: This symptom may clear as the cataract gets larger.
  • Frequent prescription changes in your eyeglasses or contact lenses.

These symptoms also can be a sign of other eye problems. If you have any of these symptoms, check with your eye care professional.

Cataract is Detected Through a Comprehensive Eye Exam that Includes:

  1. Visual acuity test. This eye chart test measures how well you see at various distances.
  2. Dilated eye exam. Drops are placed in your eyes to widen, or dilate, the pupils. Your eye care professional uses a special magnifying lens to examine your retina and optic nerve for signs of damage and other eye problems. After the exam, your close-up vision may remain blurred for several hours.
  3. Tonometry. An instrument measures the pressure inside the eye. Numbing drops may be applied to your eye for this test.

Your eye care professional also may do other tests to learn more about the structure and health of your eye.

Diabetic Retinopathy Defined

From: http://www.nei.nih.gov/health/diabetic/retinopathy.asp

Diabetic eye disease refers to a group of eye problems that people with diabetes may face as a complication of diabetes. All can cause severe vision loss or even blindness.

Diabetic eye disease may include:

  • Diabetic retinopathy — damage to the blood vessels in the retina.
  • Cataract — louding of the eye’s lens. Cataracts develop at an earlier age in people with diabetes.
  • Glaucoma — increase in fluid pressure inside the eye that leads to optic nerve damage and loss of vision. A person with diabetes is nearly twice as likely to get glaucoma as other adults.

What is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy is the most common diabetic eye disease and a leading cause of blindness in American adults. It is caused by changes in the blood vessels of the retina.

In some people with diabetic retinopathy, blood vessels may swell and leak fluid. In other people, abnormal new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina. The retina is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. A healthy retina is necessary for good vision.

If you have diabetic retinopathy, at first you may not notice changes to your vision. But over time, diabetic retinopathy can get worse and cause vision loss. Diabetic retinopathy usually affects both eyes.

Diabetic Retinopathy Has Four Stages:

  1. Mild Nonproliferative Retinopathy. At this earliest stage, microaneurysms occur. They are small areas of balloon-like swelling in the retina’s tiny blood vessels.
  2. Moderate Nonproliferative Retinopathy. As the disease progresses, some blood vessels that nourish the retina are blocked.
  3. Severe Nonproliferative Retinopathy. Many more blood vessels are blocked, depriving several areas of the retina with their blood supply. These areas of the retina send signals to the body to grow new blood vessels for nourishment.
  4. Proliferative Retinopathy. At this advanced stage, the signals sent by the retina for nourishment trigger the growth of new blood vessels. This condition is called proliferative retinopathy. These new blood vessels are abnormal and fragile. They grow along the retina and along the surface of the clear, vitreous gel that fills the inside of the eye. By themselves, these blood vessels do not cause symptoms or vision loss. However, they have thin, fragile walls. If they leak blood, severe vision loss and even blindness can result.

Causes and Risk Factors

How Does Diabetic Retinopathy Cause Vision Loss?

Blood vessels damaged from diabetic retinopathy can cause vision loss in two ways:

  1. Fragile, abnormal blood vessels can develop and leak blood into the center of the eye, blurring vision. This is proliferative retinopathy and is the fourth and most advanced stage of the disease.
  2. Fluid can leak into the center of the macula, the part of the eye where sharp, straight-ahead vision occurs. The fluid makes the macula swell, blurring vision. This condition is called macular edema. It can occur at any stage of diabetic retinopathy, although it is more likely to occur as the disease progresses. About half of the people with proliferative retinopathy also have macular edema.

Who Is At Risk For Diabetic Retinopathy?

All people with diabetes — both type 1 and type 2 — are at risk. That”s why everyone with diabetes should get a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year. The longer someone has diabetes, the more likely he or she will get diabetic retinopathy. Between 40 to 45 percent of Americans diagnosed with diabetes have some stage of diabetic retinopathy. If you have diabetic retinopathy, your doctor can recommend treatment to help prevent its progression.

During pregnancy, diabetic retinopathy may be a problem for women with diabetes. To protect vision, every pregnant woman with diabetes should have a comprehensive dilated eye exam as soon as possible. Your doctor may recommend additional exams during your pregnancy.

Does Diabetic Retinopathy Have Any Symptoms?

Often there are no symptoms in the early stages of the disease, nor is there any pain. Don’t wait for symptoms. Be sure to have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year.

Blurred vision may occur when the macula — the part of the retina that provides sharp central vision — swells from leaking fluid. This condition is called macular edema.

If new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina, they can bleed into the eye and block vision.

What Are The Symptoms of Proliferative Retinopathy if Bleeding Occurs?

At first, you will see a few specks of blood, or spots, “floating” in your vision. If spots occur, see your eye care professional as soon as possible. You may need treatment before more serious bleeding occurs. Hemorrhages tend to happen more than once, often during sleep.

Sometimes, without treatment, the spots clear, and you will see better. However, bleeding can reoccur and cause severely blurred vision. You need to be examined by your eye care professional at the first sign of blurred vision, before more bleeding occurs.

If left untreated, proliferative retinopathy can cause severe vision loss and even blindness. Also, the earlier you receive treatment, the more likely treatment will be effective.

How Are Diabetic Retinopathy and Macular Edema Detected?

Diabetic retinopathy and macular edema are detected during a comprehensive eye exam that includes:

  1. Visual acuity test. This eye chart test measures how well you see at various distances.
  2. Visual acuity test. This eye chart test measures how well you see at various distances.
  3. Tonometry. An instrument measures the pressure inside the eye. Numbing drops may be applied to your eye for this test.

Your eye care professional checks your retina for early signs of the disease, including:

  • Leaking blood vessels.
  • Retinal swelling (macular edema).
  • Pale, fatty deposits on the retina — signs of leaking blood vessels.
  • Damaged nerve tissue.
  • Any changes to the blood vessels.

Getting the Substances to Protect Our Eye Sight

Carotenoid Supplementation Rebuilds Macular Pigment Optical Density.

Source: Current Eye Research

Link: http://nhiondemand.com/HSJArticle.aspx?id=832

Macular pigment is composed of 3 carotenoids, meso-zeaxanthin, lutein and zeaxanthin, and is mainly present at the nerve fiber layers and ganglion cell layers of the retina, with peak concentrations in the fovea. It is thought to function as a blue-light filter and antioxidant, and therefore protect the retina from damaging influences that are thought to play a role in the pathogenesis of age-related macular degeneration.

Lutein is a member of the carotenoid family, which are naturally occurring fat-soluble pigments found in plants. Lutein occurs in numerous foods but the highest concentrations occur in marigolds, which are the source of most of the lutein that is used commercially. Lutein specifically concentrates in the macula, which is a small area in the center of the retina in the eye. The macula lies directly behind the lens and is the area of the eye that receives the most light. Lutein protects the macula by filtering out potentially damaging forms of light. Thus, lutein is associated with protection from various diseases of the eyes, especially age-related macular degeneration, which is a leading cause of blindness in older adults.

Zeaxanthin is one of two carotenoids that occur at high levels in the retina of the eyes, the other being lutein. The greatest amounts of zeaxanthin occur in the macular region, whereas lutein is distributed throughout the entire retina. These carotenoids have two main functions, they absorb the potentially harmful blue-violet wavelengths of light energy that come into the eye, and they also function as antioxidants.

Meso-zeaxanthin is not found in the diet, but is converted in the retina from ingested lutein. When taken as a supplement, meso-zeaxanthin is absorbed into the blood stream and effectively increases macular pigment levels.

There are numerous other studies that show the same thing. Lutein and Zeaxanthin are crucial in preserving eyesight!

So…

Who has better eyesight? Popeye, Bugs Bunny, or Charlie Brown’s Great Pumpkin?

Well, according to the

USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 22

(μg) Content of Selected Foods per Common Measure, Lutein + zeaxanthin sorted by nutrient content Top 119 Foods available at http://www.ars.usda.gov/Services/docs.htm?docid=18877

Pumpkin wins out over Carrots by a long shot. In fact, Pumpkin is number 18 on the list of foods with the highest Lutein and Zeaxanthin content. Carrots come in way behind at 93! Amazing… So… sorry Bugs Bunny, the Great Pumpkin wins this one.

But wait… where does Spinach stand?

Popeye, perhaps spinach’s most prominent promoter always seems to be squinting. So does that mean that spinach is the lowest on the list. Is Spinach lower in Lutein and Zeaxanthin content than carrots?

Umm… Not exactly.

What about pumpkin? Surely with Popeye squinting pumpkin should have more Lutein and Zeaxanthin in them than spinach.

Er…. Right?

Umm… Not exactly.

What are you sayin’ here?

You see… spinach, when: frozen, chopped or leaf, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt is measured, Spinach comes out Number One! Spinach… yes Spinach wins out over pumpkin and carrots.

Canned spinach is number 4. And raw spinach is number 15.

So go ahead and eat your spinach. Make Popeye proud… Better yet, do it to preserve your eyesight.

In case you are interested… Here are some more studies you may want to look into:

Clinical Trial of Lutein in Patients With Retinitis Pigmentosa Receiving Vitamin A

Eliot L. Berson, MD; Bernard Rosner, PhD; Michael A. Sandberg, PhD; Carol Weigel-DiFranco, MA; Robert J. Brockhurst, MD; K. C. Hayes, PhD; Elizabeth J. Johnson, PhD; Ellen J. Anderson, RD; Chris A. Johnson, PhD; Alexander R. Gaudio, MD; Walter C. Willett, MD; Ernst J. Schaefer, MD

Arch Ophthalmol. 2010;128(4):403-411.

Lutein May Provide 10 Years’ Worth of Eye Protection
Source: E Berson et al., “Clinical trial of lutein in patients with retinitis pigmentosa receiving vitamin A,” Archives of Ophthalmology, vol. 128, no. 4 (April 2010): 403-411.

Are among the numerous studies confirming the role lutein and zeaxanthin have in eye sight protection. So what are you waiting for…

Eat Your Spinach. Aye Aye… or should we say Eye Eye.

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