Tag Archives: vision impairment

Start Saving Your Vision Now

vision improvement, repair eyes, improve vision

By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness

April 4, 2016

  • Is this how you’ll lose your drivers license?
  • The key to sharper and clearer vision
  • What to feed your starving eyes

One thing I notice when it comes to health concerns is that most people don’t pay nearly enough attention to their eyesight. This is a mistake.

Your eyesight is your key to independence. Once it starts to go, all sorts of things happen.

The most terrifying, of course, is losing your driver’s license. Suddenly you can’t go to the grocery store… you can’t get to the doctor if you have an emergency… you can’t even meet your friends for dinner.

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You’re also likely to start limiting other activities… even ones as simple as putting away your clothes… because tripping and falling suddenly become big risks.

Now, the two nutrients you probably think of first when it comes to your eyesight are lutein and zeaxanthin. And it’s true that your eyes crave these two carotenoids. A lack of them will slowly starve your macula. And when your eyes are constantly starved, it’s a serious threat to your long-term vision.

But despite popular belief, these carotenoids aren’t the only nutrients your eyes are hungry for. Continue reading

Vision Loss and AMD

Looking Good
By David Blyweiss, M.D.

Of all our senses, sight is no doubt the one we rely on most. The prospect of losing your vision is truly terrifying. After all, if your vision diminishes, your quality of life also declines—especially when it comes to activities like driving and reading. Continue reading

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Vision Loss and Protecting Your Sight

By Bonnie Jenkins, Advanced Natural Medicine

“Where were you when the lights went out?” That’s what millions of Americans and Canadians were asking each other after the recent blackout that left more than 6 million people in the dark throughout the Northeast, Midwest and Canada. It’s one of those shared experiences that can bring out the best in people. For 29 hours, folks from New York to Detroit to Toronto helped each other, developing a sense of camaraderie and community.

But just imagine living the rest of your life in the dark. That’s what people with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) have to look forward to. And instead of fostering closeness, AMD can leave its victims feeling helpless, isolated and afraid.

A Dim View

Personally, I can’t think of anything more frightening than the prospect of going blind. Yet, AMD is the most common cause of vision loss in Americans over sixty. It’s also the most serious – and the odds just get worse as we get older. In fact, one in three people over the age of 75 are affected by AMD.

Now, we all experience some visual impairment as we age. But, there’s a big difference between needing a pair of glasses and developing AMD, a disease marked by the degeneration of the center part of the retina known as the macula. The macula is responsible for fine, detailed vision and as it deteriorates, your field of vision narrows until you can’t see at all. The most typical form of the disease is dry macular degeneration, which occurs when the light-sensitive macular cells break down. This type of AMD may take years to develop and the most common symptoms are a gradual shift in perception (normally straight objects appear bent or wavy) and a dark or blurry spot in the center of your vision.

Less common, but by far more debilitating, is wet macular degeneration. Wet AMD occurs when new blood vessels behind the retina grow toward it and leak blood and fluid. This form of macular degeneration causes a very sudden – and severe – loss of central vision.

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So, who is at risk? Although your risk of developing AMD increases with age, other risk factors include gender (women are at a higher risk than men), a family history of the disease, smoking and excessive exposure to sunlight. And, according to Australian researchers, the use of blood pressure and cholesterol-lowering drugs can also put you at higher risk (yet another reason to opt for nutritional intervention instead of ACE inhibitors and statin drugs).

But, while an ophthalmologist can tell you if you’re at risk – and can even detect the early onset of AMD – mainstream medicine doesn’t have much to offer in the way of treatment. But I’ll tell you about some natural things you can do to prevent and possibly even slow down the progression of AMD.

Powerful Protectors

Sure, we all know that vitamin A and its precursor beta-carotene can protect our eyesight. But, over the past decade, scientists have discovered two other carotenoids that offer even more protection against vision loss. In fact, researchers from Tufts University and the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging found that the carotenoids zeaxanthin and lutein can reduce the risk of developing AMD by 40 percent. Here’s why: zeaxanthin and lutein are concentrated in the macula. The concentration of zeaxanthin in the center of the macula is about 85 times greater than its concentration in the periphery. Lutein is also dispersed throughout the entire retina and acts like a filter to protect the macula from potentially damaging forms of light. In fact, these two carotenoids play such an important role in maintaining your vision that one study by the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston found that 60-year-olds with normal levels of zeaxanthin and lutein have the visual sensitivity of 20-year-olds! Other dietary studies have confirmed the link between the frequent consumption of kale, spinach or collard greens (all good sources of lutein and zeaxanthin) and lower AMD risk. According to the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which took place at the University of Wisconsin, consuming 6 mg. of both lutein and zeaxanthin a day can reduce the risk of developing AMD. But getting that much zeaxanthin and lutein through food alone can be tough. (Be honest, when was the last time you ate a heaping bowl of greens?) The best way I’ve found to maintain healthy levels of these two sight-saving nutrients is with supplements. Another carotenoid, astaxanthin, may also offer insurance against AMD. Derived from a microalgae, animal studies have found that this novel carotenoid has some amazing antioxidant properties. In fact, researchers have found astaxanthin to be 100 times more potent than viramin E and 10 times more powerful then beta-carotene. And, unlike beta-carotene, astaxanthin easily crosses the blood-brain barrier.

Investigations of the antioxidant effectiveness of astaxanthin in the eye are just beginning but the preliminary findings are already very promising. In one study by scientists at the University of Illinois in Chicago, astaxanthin protected the retinas of rats exposed to damaging ultraviolet light. The results suggest that astaxanthin could be useful for the prevention and treatment of neuronal damage associated with age-related macular degeneration.

According to ophthalmologist and surgeon James McMillan, M.D., taking 2 mg. of astaxanthin a day can help prevent AMD. But since the evidence is still speculative, it’s also a good idea to include an eye supplement containing the dynamic duo – zeaxanthin and lutein.

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One Last Thing …

Ginkgo biloba has been getting a lot of attention lately. So it really didn’t surprise me that this versatile herb is also good for warding off the onset of AMD. Because ginko helps prevent oxidative damage, improves circulation and enhances cellular metabolism, researchers have suggested that these anti-aging properties may prevent degenerative changes in the eye. Several studies have shown that ginkgo has significant value in cases of retinal damage and that it can be used successfully and safely to protect the eye from AMD. Ginkgo may also offer some help to people already suffering from the disease. In one double-blind trial, 99 patients with dry senile macular degeneration were given either 240 mg. or 60 mg. of ginkgo a day. After just four weeks, the researchers found that those taking the higher dose of the herb had significant improvements in visual acuity compared to those taking the lower dose. When it comes to protecting your sight, these natural alternatives have a definite edge over mainstream medicine. If you want to see into your future, include these eye-friendly supplements in your daily routine now.

This Just In …

Not long ago, I received an e-mail from a reader named Preston, who wanted to know if there was a safe way to use tanning beds. Now, I can certainly understand why some people may want to keep that golden summer glow. But the truth is that there is NO safe way to tan. And tanning beds may be even more dangerous than spending a day in the sun.

Tanning beds use Ultraviolet-A light to trigger the production of melanin, the pigment that gives us that characteristic bronzed look. But the amount of UVA tanning lamps expose you to is many, many times higher than you get outdoors. As dermatologists learn more about the effect of different wavelengths of light on our skin, it’s now understood that UVA rays are the ones responsible for premature ageing.

There are bigger concerns, too. In a recently published 37-year study, researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden examined information on more than 51,000 people diagnosed with skin cancer. The data showed that squamous cell carcinoma has become the most rapidly increasing type of cancer in Sweden in the past 20 years. Noninvasive types of skin cancer increased “drastically,” the researchers say, especially on areas of the body normally protected from the sun by clothing. Their report, which appeared in The Archives of Dermatology, suggests the increase is attributable to the use of tanning beds.

Earlier studies have found that people who used tanning devices were 1.5 to 2.5 times more likely to have basal cell and squamous cell skin cancer than people who did not use the devices. And at least one investigation found that exposure to the type of ultraviolet light used in tanning salons can alter DNA.

So, Preston, forget tanning beds – and limit your exposure to the sun, even after the scorch of summer is gone.

References:

Fies P, et al. “Ginkgo extract in impaired vision-treatment with special extract Egb 761 of impaired vision due to dry senile macular degeneration.” Wien Med Wochenschr . 2002;52:23-426.

Gale CR, et al. “Lutein and zeaxanthin status and risk of age-related macular degeneration.” Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science. 2003;44:1-2465.

Guerin M, et al. “ Haematococcus astaxanthin: health and nutritional applications.” Report presented at the 1st Congress of the International Society for Applied Phycology. 2002.

McCarty CA, et al. “Risk factors for age-related maculopathy: the Visual Impairment Project.” Archives of Ophthalmology. 2001;119:1455-1462.

Seddon JM, et al. “Dietary carotenoids, vitamins A, C, and E, and advanced age-related macular degeneration. Eye Disease Case-Control Study Group.” Journal of the American Medical Association. 1994; 272:1413-1420.

“Tanning Beds Fingered for Rise in Skin Cancer.” HealthScout. 23 July 2003.

Preventing Cataracts with Tumeric, Curcumin, Lutein, and More

By Bonnie Jenkins, Advanced Natural Medicine

A few weeks ago, my mom called me up in a panic. It seems that, when she woke up that morning and reached over to shut off the alarm clock, half of the numbers on the clock were blurred beyond recognition! It was like a veil had fallen over her eyes during the night. At my urging, she went to see the ophthalmologist who broke the bad news: cataracts.

If you’ve begun seeing colored halos, it’s not a flashback to the psychedelic 60’s. Like my mom, you may be among the 4 million Americans with cataracts. Marked by blurred or double vision, sensitivity to light, fading of colors, poor night vision and halos around lights, cataracts are the leading cause of decreased vision in older Americans and the No. 1 cause of blindness worldwide.

Which is why a new study linking tumeric to a reduced risk of cataracts is so exciting.

A Guessing Game

Nobody really knows what causes cataracts, but there are plenty of theories. The damage that occurs to the lens and the subsequent clouding may be due to advancing age, heredity, an injury or disease, cigarette smoking or the use of certain medications.

One theory that’s gotten a lot of attention over the past few years is the sunshine theory. More specifically, a growing number of scientists believe that sunlight increases the risk of developing cataracts. In one population-based study of more than 2,500 adults, age 64 to 84, by Johns Hopkins University, researchers found that those subjects with the greatest exposure to the sun had a 60 percent higher chance of developing cataracts. But, don’t think that donning a pair of shades will solve the problem. French researchers have recently deflated the belief that regular sunglass can protect against the formation of cataracts. Instead, most ophthalmologists now recommend getting a pair of sunglasses coated with a special UVA/UVB protectant.

Whatever the cause, conventional treatments aren’t all that effective. In the beginning stages, a lot of doctors recommend magnifying lenses or stronger eyeglasses to compensate for the vision problems caused by cataracts. Once you can no longer see well enough to accomplish daily activities, you doctor may recommend surgery to remove the clouded lens and replace it with a clear artificial lens. In fact, cataract surgery is the most common surgical procedure for people over 65. But the problem many people have with surgery is that the lens capsule that remains in the eye after the operation eventually turns cloudy, causing additional loss of vision.

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The Curcumin Connection

The best way to avoid surgery is by preventing cataracts in the first place – and that’s where this new study comes in. In the study, researchers from the National Institute of Nutrition in Hyderabad, India, fed three groups of rats diets containing various amounts of curcumin. Two other groups were fed a standard diet as controls. After four weeks, the researchers found that curcurmin boosted antioxidant levels and inhibited lipid peroxidation. While this effectively delayed the onset and development of cataracts, the researchers discovered that it only works with small doses. In other words, more isn’t better.

Curcurmin supplements are available – and are often used as an alternative for cancer prevention and treatment. But if you’re looking to avoid cataracts, it’s likely the supplements will provide too large a dose. Instead, many nutritionists recommend hitting the spice rack since curcumin is the active ingredient in the curry spice tumeric.

Turmeric has been used for thousands of years in Asian and Indian cookery and is a staple in both Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine. Most of the nutritionists I’ve talked with suggest consuming one-quarter teaspoon every day to ward off cataracts, and I find the easiest way to accomplish that is by adding it to whatever’s on the menu for dinner. Ground from dried curcumin, a rhizome of the ginger family, turmeric isn’t peppery – it’s mild-tasting and fairly inexpensive – so I toss a bit into spaghetti sauce, chili, stews, soups and even salad dressings.

Lifting the Cloud

While the Indian study adds another piece to the cataract puzzle, it doesn’t give us the whole picture. Researchers have also linked the depletion of several key nutrients to the formation of cataracts. Here’s how it works: as you age, the cumulative effects of sun exposure and other lifestyle choices cause several biochemical changes to occur in the eye’s lens, including decreased levels of the key antioxidants vitamin C and glutathione, increased oxidation, loss of amino acids and decreased lens metabolism.

Several studies suggest that vitamins C and E might protect against the development and progression of cataracts. More than half of the observational studies done reported a reduced risk of cataracts among people who have a higher dietary intake of the vitamins. Long-term use of vitamin C and E supplements (10 years or more) also showed a reduction in the risk of cataracts.

You’ve probably also heard about lutein, a carotinoid that provides antioxidant protection against cataracts. According to recent research, lutein may act as a filter to protect the macula from potentially damaging ultra-violet light. In one clinical trial, 17 cataract patients were randomly divided into three groups receiving either 15 mg. of lutein, 100 mg. of vitamin E or a placebo three times a week for up to two years. By the end of the study, those taking the lutein supplements experienced significant improvement in their eyesight, especially in visual acutity and glare sensitivity. No such improvement was seen in the other two groups.

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Admittedly, this was an extremely small study and the amount of vitamin E was far too small to make any difference. But it does point out just how powerful lutein is in the fight against cataracts.

But while lutein is critical to eye health, there’s another, equally important carotinoid that can help prevent cararacts. If you read the e-bulletin “Keeping an eye on health” (6/2/03), you may remember a supplement called zeaxanthin. Zeaxanthin works hand-in-hand with lutein to bolster eye health.

Three recent epidemiological trials have examined the correlation between dietary lutein and zeaxanthin and the risk of cataracts or cataract surgery. In the first, researchers conducting a five-year longitudinal follow-up of the Beaver Dam Eye Study found that subjects who consumed the most lutein and zeaxanthin had a significantly lower risk of cataracts compared to those with the lowest intakes. Another study analyzed prospective follow-up data from the Nurse’s Health Study and found that the higher the intake of lutein and zeaxanthin, the lower the chance of needing cataract surgery. The third study conducted an analysis of the data similar to that of the Nurses’s Health Study. In this study group, which was a subset from the Health Professional’s Follow-up Study, the investigators also found a statistically significant trend toward lower risk of surgery with higher lutein and zeaxanthin intake.

So, what’s the best way to get these eye-friendly nutrients? Good sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, strawberries, cantaloupe, green peppers and tomatoes. Vitamin E can be found in most nuts and seeds as well as most vegetable oils. Lutein and zeaxanthin are abundant in green leafy vegetables like kale, collard greens and spinach and can also be found in corn, peas, orange peppers and tangerines.

But food alone probably won’t provide enough of these nutrients to effectively prevent cataracts. To make sure you’re getting the amount needed, it’s a good idea to take supplements. James Balch, MD, the author of Prescription for Nutritional Healing, recommends taking 2,000 mg. of vitamin C, 400 IU of vitamin E and a carotenoid complex containing both lutein and zeaxanthin on a daily basis.

One Last Thing …

I can’t stress the importance of getting an annual eye exam enough. If you experience any of the symptoms I’ve mentioned above – blurred or hazy vision, the appearance of spots in front of the eyes, increased sensitivity to glare, the feeling of having a film over the eyes or even a temporary improvement in near vision – a cataract may be forming. It’s critical that you have a qualified eye care professional diagnose the problem. Fortunately, my mom did and was able to catch her cataracts long before surgery was necessary. While she’s being monitored by her ophthalmologist, she’s also started taking the antioxidants and carotenoids I’ve told you about. It’s only been six weeks or so, but both she and her doctor are already noticing the difference.

This Just In …

My father-in-law has kidney disease so, needless to say, I was excited to read a new study in the Journal of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine which found that supplementing with coenzyme Q10 can improve kidney function and reduce the need for dialysis in people with severe, chronic kidney (renal) failure.

In the study, 97 people with chronic renal failure were randomly assigned to receive a placebo or 60 mg. of CoQ10 three times per day for 12 weeks. Among the 45 participants who were already receiving dialysis, supplementation with CoQ10 resulted in an improvement in various measures of kidney function, including serum creatinine (29 percent improvement) and blood urea nitrogen (9 percent improvement). In contrast, kidney function tended to worsen in the placebo group, and the differences between CoQ10 and placebo were statistically significant. CoQ10 also produced significant improvements relative to placebo among the participants who weren’t receiving dialysis. By the end of the study, the number of people requiring dialysis had decreased from 21 to 12 in the CoQ10 group, but remained unchanged in the placebo group.

If you know someone undergoing dialysis, I’m sure you’ve seen just how debilitating it can be. So anything that could reduce the need for this treatment would truly be lifechanging. Please share this e-bulletin with anyone who might benefit from these findings, especially your doctor. This is the best news people with kidney failure have gotten in a very long time.

References:

Brown L, et al. “A prospective study carotenoid intake and risk of cataract extraction in US men.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1999; 70:517-524.

KaLuzny JJ. “Contemporary views on the pathogenesis and possible prophylaxis of age related cataracts.” Pol Merkuriusz Lek (Poland). 1997; 2:76-78.

Lyle BJ, et al. “Antioxidant intake and the risk of incident age-related nuclear cataracts in the Beaver Dam Eye Study.” American Journal of Epidemiology. 1999; 149:801-809.

Olmedilla B, et al. “Lutein, but not alpha-tocopherol, supplementation improves visual function in patients with age-related cataracts: a 2-y double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study.” Nutrition. 2003; 19:21-24.

Singh RB, et al. “Randomized, Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Trial of Coenzyme Q10 in Patients with End-stage Renal Failure.” Journal of Nutritional & Environmental Medicine. 2003; 13:13-22.

Suryanarayana P, et al. “Effect of curcurmin on galactose-induced cataractogenesis in rats.” Molecular Vision. 2003; 9:223-230.