Low Vision Awareness Month: Protect your Eyes
By Kristen M. Leccese and Dr. Millie Lytle, ND.
Good eyesight is one aspect of our health that’s pushed to the side far too often. The ability to see our friends’ faces, breathtaking landscapes, movies, works of art, colors, expressions, and everything else is a blessing that many people take for granted.
What is “Low Vision”?
February is Low Vision Awareness Month. Low vision is described as “partial sight” – a condition that can’t be repaired through surgery, glasses, contacts or medication. Low vision can affect people of any age, although one of the main causes of this condition is age-related macular degeneration, or AMD. Other causes of low vision include eye conditions like glaucoma, cataracts, and diabetic retinopathy. Less often, people are born with chronic conditions that may cause a lifetime of low vision or even complete blindness.
Perfect vision is considered 20/20. This means that the person sees the same line of letters at 20 feet that a “normal” person sees at 20 feet. When the bottom number goes up, this indicates people see objects at 20 feet as if they are further (30 feet, 70, 200, etc.). In the United States, anyone whose vision can’t be corrected to better than 20/200 – or anyone who has 20 degrees or less of their peripheral vision – is considered legally blind. Here’s a breakdown of the numbers and what they mean as far as vision impairment:
- 20/30 to 20/60 – mild vision loss, or near-normal vision
- 20/70 to 20/160 – moderate visual impairment, or moderate low vision
- 20/200 to 20/400 – severe visual impairment, or severe low vision
- 20/500 to 20/1,000 – profound visual impairment, or profound low vision
- Over 20/1,000 – near total visual impairment, or near total blindness
- No Light Perception – total visual impairment, or total blindness
Early Detection for Unhealthy or Low Vision
Early detection is key in preserving your eyesight. If you’re having trouble getting through your daily routine because of vision problems, even with glasses or contacts, don’t hesitate – see your eye doctor immediately! The issue may be able to be corrected if it’s treated early on. If your vision problem is degenerative though, don’t lose hope. Researchers have made great strides in this area of medicine.
Seeing an ophthalmologist who specializes in low vision can point you in the right direction. A specialist can offer you the best tools for dealing with low vision including electronic reading aids, very strong glasses or loupes for tasks such as using the computer or phone, glare shields to enhance contrast, and other everyday equipment to help you adapt to life with low vision.
Nutrients for Healthy Vision
There are key nutrients that may help improve your eyesight and slow down vision loss. Dr. Millie Lytle, ND let us know which supplements may help to support healthy vision.
When considering the health of the eyes and vision support, there is no single vitamin that addresses all aspects of eye health. I always consider nutrient families when recommending supplementation for eye health.
Antioxidants have been shown to help repair the various delicate structures of the eyes including the nerves, cones, rods, lens, retina, cornea, fovea and macula. Bioflavenoids and carotenoids such as lutein, xeathanthin and astaxanthin are sourced from orange, red and yellow foods such as carrots, citrus fruits, sweet potatoes, peppers and shrimp. Beta Carotene is a double molecule of Vitamin A, which is the nutrient known to improve night vision, integrity of delicate structures of the eye, and protect again sun’s UV rays.
Keep in mind that other health conditions can affect the eyes! Don’t look back at what you might have done differently if you had only known! For instance, high blood pressure puts pressure on the eyes and increases risk for retinal tears, glaucoma and blindness. You might not like to take pharmaceutical medications, but it’s far safer than walking around with high blood pressure, which can damage the eyes and lead to blindness. Just be wary – some drugs and prescriptions can cause drug-induced nutrient depletions!
Diabetes and high blood sugar damage nerves and arteries leading to the eyes which causes cataracts and gradual vision loss. Certain medications such as cholesterol medications (statins) are related to diabetes and many people will get cataracts as a side effect to diabetes and statin use. It’s very important to avoid smoking as it depletes nutrients and generates free radicals that injure eyes. Stay active as a way to reduce obesity, blood pressure and blood sugar.