Prevention and Treatment of age-related eye diseases

Cataract surgery is most common for people over the age of sixty In the US, eye surgeons perform 1.3 million cataract operations every year for a total cost of US $3.5 billion.

The lens of the eye collects and focus light on the retina. It is important for the lens to stay clear throughout our lifetime, In order to function properly. As we age, various components of the lens may get damaged, leading to cataracts.

Medical research has proven that supply of sufficient anti- oxidants at an early age can prevent cataract formation. Antioxidants are needed to combat against free radicals, due to ultraviolet sunlight.

In particular the fluid around the lens of the eye has to be protected by antioxidants against oxidative damage. The most important antioxidant is vitamin C, which is found in high concentration around the lens, as well as vitamin E, alpha-lipoic acid and beta-carotine.

A study showed that consuming vitamins in supplementation protects the eye and decrease the risk of developing cataracts by 50%. There is sufficient evidence that taking antioxidants is an inexpensive way to decrease cataract formation.

Another problem concerning the eye is macular degeneration. It is the leading cause of blindness in people over the age of sixty.

This is the decay of an important part of the retina called macula. This is the area, which deals with central vision, where the greatest concentration of photo receptors are located.

We recognize wet and dry forms. Ninety percent of the cases represent the dry form, in which central vision gradually reduces and may proceed to the wet form for the remaining ten percent.

There is currently no treatment available for the dry form. The wet form can be treated via laser photo coagulation, by which new vessel formation can be slowed down, which causes swelling and bleeding into the retina. Blindness usually follows rather quickly.

Theories suggest that light entering the eye and focused on the macula of the retina causes significant free-radical production in the outer aspect of the photo receptors.

If there are no sufficient antioxidants available to the photo receptors, lipofuscin formation, a toxic substance, within the retinal pigment epithelium, causes more oxidation damage to the retina and research believe it is actually the cause of damage and destruction of these sensitive photo receptors.

Lipofuscin accumulate in the pigment epithelium cells and are eventually excreted in the form of drusen, which is one of the first indications of macular degeneration development.

The development of drusen separates the photo receptors of the eye from its blood supply and causes an area of blindness.

High-energy ultraviolet light and visible blue light are in particular responsible for the production of free radicals in the retina of the eye.

Our natural antioxidant defense system that protects us from this free radical damage, declines when we get older. Macular degeneration is characterised by low levels of zinc, selenium, vitamin C, vitamin E and carotenoid.

High levels of carotenoids, called lutein and zeaxanthine, absorb the blue light portion of visible light, that can damage the lens and he retina of the eye. They are strong antioxidants and are found in corn and leafy green vegetables.

CoQ10 can also play a part in reducing the oxidative damage caused by free radicals.

Glutathione, which is a very potent antioxidant found within every cell of our body, is in particular critical within the lens of our eye and the pigment and the photoreceptor cells of the retina. The level of glutathione declines when we get older.

Glutathione peroxidase is one of the natural antioxidant defense systems that our body creates. The nutrients needed for the body to make its own defense are selenium, vitamin B6, N-acetyl-L-cysteine and niacin.

Vitamin C and alpha-lipoic acid have the ability to regenerate glutathione. Zinc is important for the function of our catalase antioxidant defense system and selenium is necessary for the glutathione peroidase system and both are important to combat free radicals produced in the eye.

As we get older, the lens of our eyes allows more ultraviolet light through and no longer protects the retina from damage of ultraviolet light. A good quality pair of sunglasses that block all UV light are important.

Without any doubt, the underlying cause of cataracts and macular degeneration is oxidative stress. Consequently, we can’t be too aggressive in our supplementation plan.