Blind World

5 Tips for Preventing Age-Related Visual Loss in the New Year.

January 01, 2005.
Canada NewsWire.

Did you know that those who are blind value their vision so much so that if given the chance they would be willing to accept a 60% reduction in their lifespan in order to eliminate it? Did you know that healthy Canadians cherish their vision so much so that seven out of ten say that they would rather lose the use of their legs or hearing rather than their sight? Did you know that every 11 minutes someone in America goes blind? If you want to prevent age-related visual loss in the New Year, here are 5 important tips for you:

1. Listen to what your mother said, "Eat your fruits and veggies." Research from Harvard University suggests that eating a diet rich in anti-oxidants is good for your eyes. This is because anti-oxidants act to "mop up" chemicals that may damage the tiny cells in the retina- the film in the eye that allows seeing to occur. Anti-oxidants can be found in green leafy foods like spinach and in yellow peppers. In addition, fruits like oranges and bananas are known to reduce the chances of developing serious aging changes in the back of the eye.

2. Stop smoking. Smoking is bad for the eyes. It increases the risk of developing cataract (clouding of the lens that focuses light rays onto the back of the eye) and macular degeneration (wear and tear changes in the film of the eye). Recent research pooling data from nearly 10,000 people from the US, the Netherlands and Australia shows that even if you do develop age-related eye changes, stopping smoking can reduce the chances of losing further sight.

3. Have your sugars checked. If you have diabetes (a condition caused by high blood sugars), and you are over the age of 40 years, you need to have your eyes examined immediately. Recently, researchers from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine estimated that among the 10 million US adults 40 years and older known to have diabetes, 40% have changes in the blood vessels contained within their retina, and 8.2% have retinal changes severe enough to threaten their sight. If your doctor notices changes in the retina treatments are available.

4. Get screened. See an eye doctor if you are over the age of 50 years. Unfortunately, the three most common causes of blindness- cataract, glaucoma and macular degeneration- can start with little or no warning. Your eye doctor will be able to measure the pressure in the eye. If it is high, it increases the risk of developing glaucoma - a condition that causes changes in the optic nerve (the cable that connects the eye to the brain) and one that can cause significant loss of peripheral vision in its early stages. Your doctor can also examine your macula (a small area of the retina that is responsible for central vision) and assess your risk for macular degeneration. Treatments are available for both of these conditions.

5. Distortion warrants immediate action. Be proactive about vision changes- especially if you notice distortion. Distortion can be a worrisome sign, in that it could signal the development of "wet" macular degeneration - the leading cause of blindness in those over the age of 50 years. To detect subtle visual distortion check an Amlser grid online (one is available at To use the Amsler grid, you need to check each eye independently (cover one eye at a time). While focusing on the central dot look to see if you note curves in any of the vertical or horizontal lines or if any of the small boxes are missing. If you note any changes, you need to seek immediate medical attention. Treatments are available for macular degeneration.

Dr. Sanjay Sharma, an Associate Professor of Ophthalmology and Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at Queen's University, serves as Editor-in-Chief of, a leading online authority on macular degeneration. For the latest medical research on macular degeneration visit

For further information: Dr. Sanjay Sharma, phone: (613) 544-3400 ext. 2227, email:

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