Your risk of developing an eye disease increases as you get older. The most common eye diseases include:
Cataracts. A condition in which your eyes become clouded. Age-related cataracts are a leading cause of vision impairment and blindness around the world.
Diabetic retinopathy. Associated with diabetes and a major cause of visual impairment and blindness, retinopathy develops when high blood sugar levels damage the blood vessels in your retina.
Dry eye disease. A condition marked by insufficient tear fluid, which causes your eyes to dry up and leads to discomfort and potential visual problems.
Glaucoma. A group of diseases characterized by progressive degeneration of your optic nerve, which transfers visual information from eyes to brain. Glaucoma may cause poor eyesight or blindness.
Macular degeneration. The macula is the central part of your retina. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the main causes of blindness in developed countries.
Although your risk of getting these conditions depends to some extent on your genes, your diet may also play a major role.
Vitamin A deficiency is one of the most common causes of blindness in the world. This vitamin is essential for maintaining your eyes' light-sensing cells, also known as photoreceptors. If you don't consume enough vitamin A, you may experience night blindness, dry eyes, or even more serious conditions, depending on the severity of your deficiency.
Vitamin A is only found in animal-derived foods. The richest dietary sources include liver, egg yolks, and dairy products.
However, you can also get vitamin A from antioxidant plant compounds called provitamin A carotenoids, found in high amounts in some fruits and vegetables.
Provitamin A carotenoids provide around 30% of people's vitamin A requirements, on average. The most efficient of them is beta-carotene, which is found in high amounts in kale, spinach, and carrots.
The long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are important for eye health.
Your eyes require high amounts of antioxidants — more so than many other organs. The antioxidant vitamin C appears to be especially important, although controlled studies on its role in eye health are lacking. The concentration of vitamin C is higher in the aqueous humor of the eye than in any other body fluid. The aqueous humor is the liquid that fills the outermost part of your eye.
The levels of vitamin C in the aqueous humor are directly proportional to its dietary intake. In other words, you can increase its concentration by taking supplements or eating foods rich in vitamin C. Observational studies show that people with cataracts tend to have a low antioxidant status. They also indicate that people who take vitamin C supplements are less likely to get cataracts. While vitamin C appears to play a protective role in your eyes, it’s unclear whether supplements provide added benefits for those who aren't deficient. High amounts of vitamin C are found in many fruits and vegetables, including bell peppers, citrus fruits, guavas, kale, and broccoli.
Vitamin E is a group of fat-soluble antioxidants that protect fatty acids from harmful oxidation. Since your retina has a high concentration of fatty acids, adequate vitamin E intake is important for optimal eye health. The best dietary sources of vitamin E include almonds, sunflower seeds, and vegetable oils like flaxseed oil.
Summary Vitamin E deficiency may lead to visual degeneration and blindness. For those who aren't deficient, supplements probably won't provide an added benefit.
Your eyes contain high levels of zinc. Zinc is a part of many essential enzymes. It also appears to be involved in the formation of visual pigments in your retina. For this reason, zinc deficiency may lead to night blindness. In one study, older adults with early macular degeneration were given zinc supplements. Their macular deterioration slowed, and they maintained their visual sharpness better than those who received a placebo. However, further studies are needed before strong conclusions can be reached. Natural dietary sources of zinc include oysters, meat, pumpkin seeds, and peanuts.
All the best Jan