Nutrition and the Eye – Part 2 – Nutrition and Eye Conditions


Diabetes occurs when there is a problem with your body’s ability to produce insulin. Insulin is the hormone that promotes the absorption of blood glucose into your body’s cells. There are 2 main types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition which prevents the production of insulin. This is not related to diet and usually occurs in or around the teens. There is nothing you can do to prevent this type of diabetes developing. Approx. 90% of people diagnosed with diabetes have type 2 diabetes. In the case of type 2 diabetes, the body can no longer produce enough insulin to function normally or you become resistant to insulin.

Being overweight and inactive are the significant risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes. Reducing the amount and changing the types of foods that you eat, combined with daily exercise can reduce your risks of developing type 2 diabetes, and in type 1 diabetes can help reduce risks of all diabetic related health problems. Diabetic retinopathy is one of the more serious complications of diabetes. This is when the blood vessels in the retina become damaged and leak which can then cause new leaking vessels to form. If this leaking blood, or fluid, permeates under the macula it can lead to significant sight loss. Diabetes can also cause earlier development of cataract or unstable vision.

Managing your blood glucose, cholesterol, and blood pressure as well as having a good diet and daily exercise can reduce the risks of developing eye and other health conditions associated with diabetes, or help prevent them getting worse.

The combination of obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes are known to be particularly dangerous and can significantly increase the risk of heart disease, strokes and other vascular disease.

If you are unsure how to change your diet and lifestyle please ask me or your own GP to refer you to a dietician or nutritionist who will be able to give you the best advice on how to make the necessary changes.

At Argus Opticians, 1 in 6 of our patients are diabetic and we closely monitor all diabetics for diabetic retinal changes. We conduct yearly dilated retinal examinations and yearly or two yearly 3D retinal scans to allow the earliest detection of diabetic retinal or macular changes. We have over twenty five years experience monitoring diabetes.

If you have any questions or concerns relating to your diabetes or diabetic eye conditions please do not hesitate to contact us at Argus Opticians Donegal Town on 074 972 5725 or Argus Opticians Bundoran on 071 983 3747.

Age Related Macular Degeneration 

Age related macular degeneration (AMD)is an increasingly common condition due to our ageing population and the fact that it mainly occurs in people over 65 with risks increasing with increasing through the 70’s and beyond. It is caused by a reduction in the ability of the retinas pigment cells to process waste produced by the visual process. This leads to deterioration in the central vision thus affecting our ability to discern fine detail.

There are 2 types of AMD. The dry form is when the pigment cells at the macula stop functioning normally, leading to a slow progressive deterioration. The wet form is when the malfunctioning cells leak fluid under the macula. This promotes the growth of new leaky blood vessels, in an attempt to prevent the problem, which in turn causes rapid damage and scarring at the macula.

However, although wet AMD progresses more quickly and left untreated can cause rapid changes to the sight, there are treatments available for wet AMD. As for dry AMD there are only a few experimental treatments available. A valuable resource for keeping up to date with the latest research and developments in AMD is the Macular Society.

The biggest risk factor for developing AMD other than age is smoking, with smokers having a significantly greater risk of developing AMD. Certain genes can also increase the risks of developing AMD, making it a familial condition rather than an heriditary one. Poor diet and nutrition can also play a role due to the vascular changes poor diet promotes.

Cessation of smoking will reduce the risk of developing AMD. If you have a family history of AMD, or have early AMD, taking antioxidants supplements can help reduce the risks of damage or progression. The cell damage in AMD is caused by free radicals, which are highly reactive substances created in the body, over a lifetime, which absorb pollutants via the air and our food. Antioxidants such as vitamins A, C and E, as well as zinc, lutein and zeaxanthin can serve to mop up free radicals to delay or prevent them from damaging your cells.

If you have a good balanced diet, exercise and do not smoke, supplements may be of limited benefit. However, the biggest ever study into these supplements, the AREDS 2 study, showed that they did slow progression from intermediate to advanced AMD. Supplements are also useful if you have a poor diet. If you are a smoker, cessation is a necessity before even considering diet or supplementation.

If you have any concerns about your diet, AMD or feel that it might be helpful to take a supplement you can contact us to discuss these further. We can also offer advice and help on smoking cessation.

At Argus Opticians we monitor our macular degeneration patients and those at risk of AMD every 3-12 months and since 2016 have been offering the latest 3D OCT advanced macular scanning to detect AMD in its very earliest stages, allowing the best visual outcomes for our patients.

If you would like to purchase or discuss supplements, book an AMD screening, or advanced 3D OCT, please contact us at Argus Opticians Donegal Town on 074 972 5725 or Argus Opticians Bundoran on 071 983 3747. Argus Opticians can also provide a low vision screening service. Low vision aids help provide at home assistance for those people with advanced AMD or anyone suffering with sight impairment.

Dry Eye

Dry eye is a multifactorial disease, which can cause an imbalance in the component parts of the tears, leading to an unstable tear film, hyperosmolarity (tears that are too salty), inflammation of the surface of the eye (cornea) and other knock on effects. See our earlier blog post on dry eye.

Clinical trials have shown that Omega 3 can have a positive effect on the symptoms of dry eye when taken in certain quantities.

There are 3 common types of Omega 3 fatty acids.

  • EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) are both long chain fatty acids from animal sources. DHA is the one you most want as it benefits the nervous system, as well as providing anti-inflammatory benefits. As dry eye is partly an inflammatory condition this is one area where Omega 3 can help reduce dry eye symptoms. Higher consumption of these Omega 3 fatty acids also correlates with improved mood, greater insulin sensitivity, increased muscle growth and better sleep.
  • ALA (Alpha-linolenic acid) is a 3rd short chain Omega 3 fatty acid and the most common type of Omega 3. It’s the most important from a dietary point of view as it acts as a precursor to formation of EPA and DHA. However, only small amounts of ALA (8%) can be converted by the body to DHA and EPA.

DHA and EPA can be obtained from select foods such as oily fish and seaweed, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. As well as all the other health benefits associated with Omega 3 fatty acids, they help the eyes produce more effective tears and a more stable tear film, reducing symptoms of dry eye.

Argus Opticians Donegal Town and Bundoran have a wide range of dry products, including high EPA and DHA Omega 3 supplements that target dry eye symptoms. We also have a long running dry eye clinic for anyone with dry eye symptoms.

Retinal Vein Occlusion

Being overweight, smoking, having high blood pressure, high cholesterol or being diabetic can all increase the risk of atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is the narrowing, hardening or thinning of the arteries making it harder for blood to flow through them and in some circumstances block the artery completely. If this happens to one of the retinal arteries it is a sight threatening condition which needs urgent attention. As the arteries and veins run closely together at the back of the eye, if the arteries harden due to atherosclerosis they can press against adjacent veins, restricting blood flow through the veins and potentially causing vein occlusions, another sight threatening condition.

The risks of developing atherosclerosis and the many associated risks to your health can be reduced by having a healthy diet, exercising regularly, ceasing smoking and reducing alcohol consumption.

Cone – Rod Dystrophy & Stargardts Disease

Cone Red dystrophies and Stargardt’s disease are rare genetic conditions which affect the cells of the retina and are caused by variations in the ABCA4 gene.

There is some evidence that taking large amounts of vitamin A can potentially advance degeneration and vision loss if you have recessive Stargardt’s disease, Cone-Rod dystrophy or any other retinal conditions associated with variations in ABCA4.

If you have one of these conditions it would be worth discussing diet and nutrition with your specialist.

In conclusion, a healthy diet, regular exercise and sensible lifestyle choices can have a profound benefit on your overall well being as well as your health. If you would like help making changes or you are interested in any of the supplements or services provided, please do not hesitate to contact us at Argus Opticians Donegal Town on 074 972 5725 or Argus Opticians Bundoran on 071 983 3747.

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