Monthly Archives: September 2017

For the Mind, Body, and Eyes

We are living longer than our ancestors did less than one hundred years ago.  Diseases associated with old age in the past were rare, like cognitive impairments, cardiovascular disease, and some types of cancer, but are now more common in an aging population.  It can also be said that macular degeneration is on the rise because of the increase number of those living to be older.

Normal retina: central macula and optic nerve

It is not known yet how the eyes of the younger generation will fair after decades of chronic blue light exposure emitted from technology.  Medical professionals question their risk for retinal damage and macular degeneration.

So as the population ages, what can be done to decrease the risk for age-related eye diseases?  What can the individual do to help themselves to maintain good ocular health?

“Food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Hippocrates

Macular degeneration with drusen

Ideally, our doctors would like to know that their patients are eating healthy and nutritious foods for both ocular and general medical health.  What the famous AREDS (age-related eye disease study) studies showed us is that nutrition makes a difference.  In the case of this study, the improvements were modest but improvements nonetheless.

Eating healthful foods with adequate

Diabetic retinopathy with hemorrhages

nutritional proportions is not always easy It is the rare individual who spends time evaluating the quality and nutritional benefits of the foods they eat each day.  What we eat is limited by time of year, geography, preferences, and availability.  That is where supplements come in.  Not everyone eats fish (for omega 3s) or likes leafy green vegetables.  What you need to do is to look at what may be missing in your diet.  Talk to a dietitian or a naturopath.

Adequate nutrition with supplementation serves us 3 ways:

  1. optimize your vision and physical health,
  2. disease prevention, and
  3. reduce progression of macular disease.

Lifestyle changes

The concept of movement as exercise is nothing new.  Many athletic types have made lots of money showing us how to exercise.  TV doctors and talk show hosts all expound on the benefits of exercise.  It does make a difference both for eye health and general health.  Many health problems such as  high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol are linked to eye disease.  What is good for the body is good for the eyes.

Here is how it helps the eyes.

Exercise increases blood flow, resulting in more blood perfusion to the eye.  This can help reduce the risk for glaucoma and increase oxygen and nutrients to a macula which may be degenerating.  Those suffering from diabetes are encouraged to exercise to control blood sugar, which in turn helps to reduce the risk for diabetic retinopathy.

Stop Smoking!

Here we go…another reason to stop smoking.  Quitting smoking reduces your risk for some eye diseases.  Those who smoke are more likely to develop cataracts at an earlier age.  It is known that smoking effects blood vessel function, and anything that effects blood flow will impact the very tiny blood vessels that feed the very sensitive macula.  Smoking increases the risk of macular degeneration.

UV Protection 

Cortical cataracts

We apply onscreen lotions with SPF (sun protection factors) to prevent sunburns to the skin.  Think of sunglasses as SPF for the eyes.  Good quality sunglass lenses will protect against 100% of the tissue damaging ultra violet rays.  Bigger lenses are better, not only to protect the lens and retina of the eye, but also protects the delicate tissues around the eyes.

Studies have shown that chronic, long-term  UV light exposure can cause early

Non -cancerous conjunctival growth: pinguecula

onset of cataracts and macular degeneration later in life.  Exposure of the conjunctiva (whites of the eyes)and eyelids can result in growths and worst yet…cancers.

Visible light spectrum

The Blue Light Hazard

Both young and old who use technology chronically for long periods of time, as many of us do, need to be aware of the potential for eye damage due to exposure to blue light.  This is not the ultra violet invisible ‘light’, it is the high energy visible blue light.  Eye doctors are concerned that excessive exposure over an extensive period of time to high energy blue light will cause retinal degeneration.

Consider reducing time spent on digital devices.  For those who need to , there are computer screen filters which can be purchased to reduce blue light.  Eye glass lenses are made, which filter out specific wavelengths of blue light, thought to be the most damaging.  You would need to ask your eye doctor or optician for these specialty lenses.

Finally, there is an app for that!  Type in to your browser or app store:. blue light filter for…Apple, Windows, Android, Mac, Chrome, etc.  As a bonus, blue light filters can also help with computer eyestrain and difficulty getting to sleep after an extensive period of computer viewing in the evening.

You only have one set of eyes, take care of them.