Age-Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD)
Sight is our most important sense, as we take in as much as 80% of all information with it. It is therefore necessary to protect our sight against the increasingly negative effects of the external and working environment, such as solar radiation, TV and computer radiation and so on.
As we get older, the risk of a degenerative disease of the eyes increases, especially age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) and cataracts.
Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD)
This was a rare disease 30 years ago, but now it is one of the most common causes of blindness in advanced countries. The exact cause of the disease is not known, but it is assumed that it is due to the influence of various factors such as changing external influences of the environment (solar and other radiation, ...) and the modern way of life (stress, diet, ...).
When light enters the eye, it falls on the retina. This is where we can find the centre of sharpest vision – yellow pigment (macules). From the retina the image then passes as nerve signals along the optical channel to the brain. When light hits the retina, though, it also produces harmful substances – free radicals. These accumulate and damage the main macules. If they are not eliminated, this can damage and even kill the cells of the macule and cause ARMD. Lutein and zeaxanthin are pigments necessary for the retina to function, but the organism cannot produce them by itself and so they must be supplied to it. These pigments not only nourish the retina. But also protect it like a filter by absorbing part of harmful light rays. That is why we also refer to them as “internal spectacles”. The principle of this “protection” is to liquidate free radicals. This process takes place in line with other antioxidants (vitamins A, E and C) and certain trace elements (selenium, zinc).
People most at risk from ARMD are older people, smokers, women, people with a light coloured iris, who have lower levels of lutein in the retina, and people who have had an operation for cataracts.
A cataract is the clouding of the eye lens, which arises from a change of structure and the arrangement of protein fibres within it. The lens changes with age or under the influence of various other factors (e.g. medicinal drugs, various diseases), becoming gradually clouded and changing from clear to opaque. This degrades the transition of light, and the image on the retina is blurred, meaning the sufferer perceives the surroundings out of focus, clouded and distorted. We can resolve the problem nowadays by an operation, when the lens is replaced by an artificial one, thereby improving the sharpness of vision. Once the patient has undergone the operation, more light enters the eyes.
As a cataract develops over several years, the vulnerable and sensitive tissue of the background of the eye does not adapt to the sudden change immediately after the operation and often does not neutralise light energy sufficiently. It is by in-taking lutein and zeaxanthin at least 3 months before and after the operation that we prepare the patient’s eyes for the new light conditions.