Alternative Treatments for Cataracts and Macular Degeneration

Cartoon characters see spots or stars before their eyes, and everyone laughs. But there's nothing funny about sight-robbing cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Both of these eye diseases are hallmarks of aging, but that doesn't mean you must surrender your sight to them as you get on in years. Adding vision-valuable foods to your diet may help you protect your eyes from the damage that occurs over time.

In this article we'll look at the causes of cataracts and AMD, as well as some alternative treatments -- in other words, ones that don't involve surgery -- for relief from this age-related problem.


Understanding Cataracts

The reality is sobering. If you live long enough, chances are you'll get cataracts. As the population ages, the numbers creep ever upward -- each year, more than a million people are diagnosed with cataracts severe enough to require surgery. Almost two-thirds of all 60-year-olds have them.

A cataract starts off as a cloudy spot on the clear lens of your eye (which is located behind your colored iris), almost as if you smeared grease on it. Some cataracts develop so slowly, you aren't even aware of them. If the cataract is near the edge of the lens, it may not interfere with your vision.

But often, the cataract gets worse, or you get more of them. You may begin to notice double or blurred vision, sensitivity to light (glare may be especially troublesome), and changes in color perception. The upshot will be progressively more-frequent changes in your eyeglass prescription, until the glasses no longer seem to help the problem. Your eye doctor will probably detect your cataract and, if it gets severe enough, suggest the latest in eye surgery.

Until the late 1970s, cataract surgery was certainly no picnic. It never really restored normal vision, and you had to wear thick eyeglasses, declaring to the world your advancing age. Now, cataract surgery is a mere hour-long affair, usually performed on an out-patient basis. The cloudy natural lens is removed and replaced with a plastic intraocular lens. In the vast majority of cases, the operation is extremely successful: The implanted lens restores sight lost to the clouded-over lens and corrects most of the need for eyeglasses after surgery, although glasses may still be needed in some cases for reading or distance vision.

But wouldn't preventing cataracts in the first place be even better? Well, tell those eye surgeons to hold their scalpels and lasers, because cataracts may not be the inevitable consequence of aging we've come to expect.

Understanding Macular Degeneration

Cataracts may affect more people, but macular degeneration is the most common cause of age-related blindness. That's why researchers are furiously working to better understand how to prevent and treat this eye disease, as well.

The macula is an area of the retina, which is in the back of your eye. The retina is like the screen onto which the lens focuses the light (and hence the images) that enters the eye. But only a small area of the retina, the macula, contains the specialized cells responsible for the sharp central vision that you need to read, drive, and perform many other daily activities requiring clear, crisp focus.

As the macula degenerates, some of the messages from your eye to your brain that tell you what you're seeing can't be transmitted, and your vision slowly becomes blurred or distorted; you may see shapes, but not fine lines, and you may experience a blank spot in your central vision. Eventually, you lose your vision altogether. There is currently no effective treatment to restore vision once the macula begins to degenerate.

Researchers have discovered that the retina of the eye is constantly bathed in vitamin C, at levels much higher than those normally found in the blood. Some researchers speculate that the vitamin C is there for protection and that the amount may need bolstering as we age. Perhaps antioxidant nutrients, therefore, could help prevent this condition, too.

On the next page, we'll address the connection between nutrition and vision and its effects on cataracts and macular degeneration.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.