Macular Degeneration

Research released for Macular Degeneration Awareness Week (27 May - 2 June 2012) has revealed Australians significantly underestimate the role of family history in developing Macular Degeneration, the leading cause of blindness and vision loss in Australia.

The national survey commissioned by the Macular Degeneration Foundation (MDF) found nearly three in four Australians (71%) did not correctly identify the role family history plays in developing the disease. This is despite research showing there is a 50% chance of developing Macular Degeneration when a family history of the disease is present.

Alarmingly, the research also found an estimated 2.1 million Australians over the age of 50 years, those most at risk, are unaware that having a parent with Macular Degeneration increases their chances of developing the disease.

Research key findings:
One in three Australians incorrectly believe vision loss caused by Macular Degeneration is a normal part of ageing.
Only one in five Australians (16%) correctly identified the chance of developing Macular Degeneration as 50% if you have a direct family history.
Generation X (aged 35-49) is more aware than their parents and children about the genetic risk of developing Macular Degeneration.
More than half of the population incorrectly identified spending less time on the computer and resting your eyes as ways to reduce the risk of developing Macular Degeneration.
Those aged 16-24 years were the most misinformed, with 81% incorrectly identifying that spending less time on the computer would reduce their risk and 77% saying resting their eyes would help.
Most of those interviewed incorrectly identified iron (55%) and calcium (38%) as nutrients important for eye health, while it is lutein, zeaxanthin, zinc and omega-3s that are crucial for macular health.

Prevalence of Macular Degeneration in Australia
Macular Degeneration is the leading cause of blindness and major vision loss in Australia
50% of all blindness is due to Macular Degeneration
The prevalence of Macular Degeneration increases with age
The prevalence of Macular Degeneration is 4 times that of Dementia and more than half that of Diabetes.
Approximately 1 in 7 Australians over 50 (1 million people) have some evidence of Macular Degeneration
The number of people with some evidence of Macular Degeneration will increase by 70% to 1.7 million by 2030, in the absence of effective prevention and treatment measures.
In 2010 12% of people over 50 yrs (856,000) had early signs of Macular Degeneration
In 2010 2% of people over 50 (167,000) had late stage Macular Degeneration which included 57,000 with Dry Macular Degeneration and 110,000 people with Wet Macular Degeneration
Over 14% of people over 80 (123,000) have vision loss or blindness from Age-related Macular Degeneration

Eye Health Checklist

  • Have your eyes tested and macula checked
  • Do not smoke
  • Keep a healthy lifestyle, control your weight and exercise regularly
  • Eat fish 2 to 3 times a week
  • Eat dark green leafy vegetables and fresh fruit daily
  • Choose low glycemic index carbohydrates
  • Eat a handful of nuts a week
  • Consider a suitable supplement in consultation with your doctor
  • Protect your eyes from the sun
  • Use an Amsler grid for checking for symptoms of Macular Degeneration
  • Seek immediate attention from an eye care professional if there are any sudden changes in vision

Risk factors 

Age: The rate of Macular Degeneration increases dramatically with age Macular Degeneration is not an inevitable consequence of ageing
Family history: 50% risk of developing Macular Degeneration if a family history is present. Up to 70% of cases have a genetic link
Smoking: 3 to 4 times the risk of Macular Degeneration if you smoke. Smokers get Macular Degeneration 5 to 10 years earlier, on average. 20 years after quitting, an ex-smoker's risk is the same as someone who has never smoked.

Solutions!

Luckily the human body is a magnificent machine and if you give it the correct nutrients and stop eating the foods that cause the damage it will repair itself.  Some herbs and suppliments that can help are:-

Eyebright Herb: (Euphrasia officinalis) has historical use for eye problems and is believed to relieve eyestrain or minor irritation naturally and help maintain eye health.

Ascorbic Acid: (Vitamin C) evidence suggests that low vitamin C levels in the eye may increase the risk of developing cataracts and other eye problems.

Zinc: Zinc is necessary for the senses of vision, taste, and smell. Zinc is needed to support a healthy immune system and is found in higher concentrations in the retina.

Zeaxanthin & Lutein: Eggs contain the highest levels of the carotenoid antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin. These two compounds are believed to be protective against age related macular degeneration. Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids found in high concentrations in the retina, specifically in the macula. They form a protective layer called the macular pigment which absorbs harmful blue light. Exposure to blue light is correlated to an increased risk of Macular Degeneration. Increasing intake of lutein, either through food or supplements, has been shown to increase the density of the macular pigment. (Mitchell P et al. MJA. 1999)