Natural Ways to Prevent Macular Degeneration
by Julie J. Martin, MS
Macular degeneration is a disease that damages the eyes and causes vision loss. It is often referred to as age-related or adult macular degeneration (AMD). It is a leading cause of severe visual impairment in Americans. There is no cure for AMD, and treatment is somewhat limited.
The macula is the central part of the retina of the eye that makes it possible to see the fine detail needed for reading, driving, and recognizing faces. AMD causes the macula to malfunction or deteriorate. The result is loss of sight in the center of the visual field.
Although the cause of AMD is unknown, it is thought to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
AMD is more common in women and older adults. Other factors that may increase your risk of developing AMD include:
The increased presence of free radicals may also increase the risk for macular degeneration. Free radicals are naturally produced when your body processes food for energy. They can also result from other oxidative stresses on the body, such as exposure to ultraviolet rays of the sun, smoking, and environmental pollution. Free radicals are unstable molecules that may cause damage to DNA and other molecules. Over the course of your lifetime, this damage may lead to AMD.
Nutritional supplements have been the focus of much research on the prevention of AMD. Antioxidants are thought to protect cells, in the eye and elsewhere, from free radical damage. High levels of antioxidants are found naturally in fruits and vegetables, as well as in other foods, such as egg yolks, nuts, grains, and some meats. They can also be concentrated in supplements.
Though the benefits of supplementation are often extolled in the media, clinical studies have had inconsistent results. While some studies reveal a link between higher levels of antioxidants and lower risk of AMD, many do not.
A review of over 62,000 people in 4 large studies showed that the use of vitamin E, beta-carotene, vitamin C, lutein, zinc, selenium, or zeaxanthin doesn't prevent or delay the development of AMD. However, a more promising review of over 6,100 people with AMD in 13 studies, showed that the same supplements may delay the progression of the disease. Depending on the study, supplements were taken individually or together.
In the bigger picture, it is difficult to tell how the supplements work across different populations. Taking supplements can also have harmful effects, especially if you take other medications. If you want to take supplements for AMD or any other reason, talk to your doctor before starting them.
Living a Healthy Lifestyle
Although evidence relating supplements, diet, and AMD is mixed, it is always best to strive to live a healthy lifestyle. Here are some ways to boost your eye health:
American Macular Degeneration Foundation
Macular Degeneration Partnership
Canadian Ophthalmological Society
The College of Family Physicians of Canada
Age-related macular degeneration. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Available at: https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/amd-macular-degeneration. Accessed September 1, 2013.
Age-related macular degeneration. American Society of Retina Specialists website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed September 26, 2017.
Age-related macular degeneration. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated February 10, 2017. Accessed September 26, 2017.
Macular degeneration. EBSCO Natural and Alternative Treatments website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated December 15, 2015. Accessed September 26, 2017.
3/6/2013 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance. Available at: http://www.dynamed...: Sui GY, Liu GC, Liu GY, et al. Is sunlight exposure a risk factor for age-related macular degeneration: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Ophthalmol. 2013;97(4):389-394.
Last reviewed September 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
Last Updated: 11/18/2013
EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.
All rights reserved.