Helping Our Aging Eyes by Dr. Marc Grossman, OD, LAc

Problems with eyesight can occur at any age, but in seniors they are more common.  For most eye conditions, the risk rate increases for those over 70- or 80-years old.  However, many of the eye conditions that arise as a result of age are considered to be normal by many medical professionals, although physiological or biological compensations are possible.  Aging does increase the risk for some sight-threatening eye conditions, which is why it is important to be informed and to have regular eye check-ups.

Let’s say there’s a woman who is 56-years old and her eye doctor says she has borderline high intraocular pressures of 26 and 27 mm Hg (mercury).  The doctor will test her visual field and optic nerve.  If the results of the visual field are fine, the doctor will either monitor it regularly or possibly give medication to lower the pressure anyway.

Here, the patient’s body is telling us way ahead of time that something is wrong, and steps need to be taken to help it.  Instead of being thankful to the body for this warning and taking measures to correct it with a natural program, the doctor will either wait until the problem becomes serious enough to demand medications, or put the patient on medications in a preventive mode, without attempting to address the real underlying issues.  An often effective natural approach includes dietary changes, nutritional supplementation, such as: omega-3 essential fatty acids, alpha lipoic acid, vitamin C and physical exercise, which have all been shown by research to help lower eye pressure naturally without medication.

Common Aging Eye Conditions:

The age-related eye conditions that are more common than others, and also less serious, are:

Dry Eyes, due to lessened production of tears, are experienced by 75% of seniors over the age of 65.  Dry eyes can also be caused or worsened by smoking, drinking coffee, menopausal changes, computer use, overuse of sugar, dehydration, and allergies or could be a symptom of a larger problem like diabetes or auto-immune diseases. Artificial tears are sometimes prescribed but these give only temporary relief and may exacerbate the problem.  Homeopathic eye drops for women and for men are quite helpful.

Presbyopia, or Age-Related Focus Dysfunction, is a blurring of close vision which makes it difficult to do fine work.  While far-sightedness is caused by inherited and environmental influences on the shape of the eyeball, Presbyopia is due to age-related thickening of proteins within the lens, making the lens less flexible.

Cataracts are so frequent among seniors that many eye doctors consider them to be normal.  Blurry, hazy vision that worsens over time and over-sensitivity to light are signs that an opaque spot on the lens of the eye may be growing and obscuring vision.  Causes may include: buildup of free radicals in the metabolism, chronic stress or pain of the back and neck, food sensitivities or allergies, eye-harming side-effects of prescribed drugs, smoking, and poor digestion.  Cataracts, too, may be formed as a result of other eye surgery or diseases such as diabetes.

Reduced pupil size makes seniors’ pupils less responsive to changes in ambient lighting, needing more light for reading and protection from bright sunlight.

Serious Eye Conditions:

Other age-related eye conditions are more serious and need to be addressed immediately either through holistic approaches or in combination with conventional medicine.  These more severe eye ailments are:

Glaucoma – refers to diseases that cause optic nerve damage, some of which are related to an increase in intraocular pressure, and which cause progressive vision loss.

Symptoms are very few until diminished vision is noticed.  Conventional treatments can be pretty drastic but research is showing that vigorous exercise may reduce the intraocular pressure associated with glaucoma.

Macular degeneration – is the leading cause of blindness among Americans over the age of 65.  Dry macular degeneration causes gradual central vision loss and results from aging and thinning of tissues in the macula or deposit of pigment.  Wet macular degeneration arises from the body’s attempt to make up for lack of nutrients by building extra blood vessels beneath the retina, but the new blood vessels leak fluid which causes permanent damage to the retinal cells.  Studies are showing that AMD (age-related macular degeneration) is a nutritional and lifestyle responsive eye disease.

Diabetic retinopathy – is vision threatening damage to the retina caused by diabetes.  Blindness is largely preventable if the patient and doctor work together for proper use of medications, blood sugar testing, supplements, proper diet and lifestyle.

Cataracts – Many eye doctors still consider cataract surgery to be the only remedy.  However, there are holistic alternatives that may help, such as; homeopathic or nutritional eye drops.

Nutritional, Herbal & Microcurrent Therapies Effective for Eye Ailments:

Antioxidants that have been shown to slow or even reverse the progress of macular degeneration are found in blueberries, artichokes and pecans.  Important antioxidants include: the carotenoids, astaxanthin, lutein and zeaxanthin, as well as nutrients and enzymes that behave like or support antioxidant functioning – glutathione, superoxide dismutase, CoQ10, and alpha lipoic acid. The carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin are pigments found in fruits and vegetables, and in high concentration in the macula of the human eye, where they reduce the risk of light-induced oxidation damage that could lead to macular degeneration and glaucoma.  Foods rich in these nutrients are green leafy vegetables, especially kale and spinach, collards and turnip greens.

Omega-3 fatty acids have been found to reduce the risk of both dry eye and macular degeneration.  Omega-3 fatty acids are found in cold water fish such as sardines, herring, salmon and tuna and to a lesser degree in dark green leafy vegetables, flax seeds, walnuts and flaxseed oil.

Vitamin A as an antioxidant plays an important role in immune function, helping the surface of the eye to be an effective barrier to bacteria and viruses.  It may help or slow the progression of dry macular degeneration. Beta carotene (Vitamin A) is found in carrots, sweet potatoes, and cantaloupe.

Vitamin C helps the body form connective tissue like collagen which is found in the cornea of the eye.  Studies are showing that Vitamin C may help prevent the formation of cataracts and vision loss from macular degeneration.  Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits and many vegetables such as bell peppers.

Vitamin E is an antioxidant which helps protect cells in the eye, and throughout the body, from damage due to metabolic by-products. Vitamin E is found in wheat germ, almonds, hazelnuts and sunflower seeds.

Zinc may help against macular degeneration and night blindness by helping to absorb Vitamin A and helping enzymes fight free radicals. Zinc is found in oysters, seafood, eggs, black-eyed peas and wheat germ.

Selenium helps to absorb Vitamin E and is found in oysters and other seafood as well as in wheat germ.

Magnesium helps relax the muscles that control circulation of vitreous gel in the eye; it is found in almonds, wheat germ, and green leafy vegetables.

Chromium is a trace element, tied to blood sugar regulation, fat metabolism and blood circulation. It is especially found in brewer’s yeast, eggs, and potato skins.

Microcurrent Stimulation Treatment:

  • Re-stimulate and energize dormant retinal cells (cells are like batteries — when they run low in energy, they become sluggish and dormant),
  • Boost the cells’ ability to rid themselves of waste products which interferes with the flow of energy, nutrients and communication,
  • Increases blood supply to the area stimulated. By increasing blood flow to the area, cells and tissues still living can get nourished and refreshed.

Research suggests that the microcurrent electrical stimulation device approximates the level of electrical activity present in a healthy eye, resulting in stimulating retinal activity and energizing dormant cells, as well as improving microvascular circulation, nerve conduction and velocity.  Microcurrent stimulation increases ATP (energy) synthesis in the retinal cells needed for membrane viability and waste management.  (A major concern for those with dry macular degeneration is excess waste not reabsorbed and eliminated which results in waste accumulation called “drusen”.)

The treatment of patients with Macular Degeneration entails the periodic administration of very precise amounts of tightly controlled electrical current through electrodes applied to the skin at specific areas around the eye. The electrical current is used to stimulate the retina as well as the diseased macula in order to help protect sight.  The procedure is safe, non-invasive and painless and no side effects or adverse reactions have been observed.

There are several metabolic processes that are enhanced through the use of Microcurrent Stimulation.  The first way is to boost the cells’ ability to rid themselves of waste products.  A cell with “stuck” waste products becomes a dead cell and interferes with cellular communication throughout the area where it is located.  Cells need to take in nutrients and eliminate waste like all other living organisms.  The energy supplied by Microcurrent Stimulation innervates cells to become vital and less sluggish.

The second way Microcurrent Stimulation works is by increasing blood supply to the area stimulated.  By increasing blood flow to the area, cells and tissues are nourished, refreshed and oxygenation is increased.

In general, the electrical current gently wakes up the cells from sleep and stimulates the healing process.

Addressing Nutrient Deficiencies:

Seniors, whose efficiency of digestion is compromised, and who take medications which deplete key nutrients, or who live in institutions, may have trouble getting enough fruits and vegetables to supply the nutrients required for eye health.  Juicing is a flavorful and efficient way to guarantee an adequate intake of enzymes, vitamins and minerals. A daily glass of fresh organic juice for retinal support may contain ginger, garlic, asparagus, leeks, spinach, Jerusalem artichokes, parsley, pumpkin, beets, celery, cabbage, carrots, raspberries, and chlorophyll; while a glass of juice aimed at optic nerve health prevention would include celery, cucumber, carrots, radish, parsley, turnip, beets, raspberries, cabbage, apples, and plums.

 

Marc Grossman, Doctor of Optometry and New York State Licensed Acupuncturist is author of several books, including Natural Eye Care – Your Guide to Healthy Vision.  Since 1980 Dr. Marc Grossman has helped many people maintain healthy vision and even improve eyesight. He is best described as a Holistic Eye Doctor, dedicated to helping people with such conditions ranging from myopia and dry eyes to potentially vision threatening diseases as macular degeneration and glaucoma. His combined multi-disciplinary approach using nutrition, eye exercises, lifestyle changes and Chinese Medicine provides him with a wide array of tools and approaches to tackle difficult eye problems. Dr. Grossman founded the Rye Learning Center in 1980, a multidisciplinary center for learning problems, in 1996 co-founded Integral Health Associates in New Paltz, New York, and in 1999 co-founded Natural Eye Care, Inc. For more information go to www.naturaleyecare.com or call 845-255-3728.


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