Helping Our Aging Eyes

Problems with eyesight can occur at any age, but in seniors they are more common.  For most eye conditions, the risk rate increases for those over 70- or 80-years old.  However, many of the eye conditions that arise as a result of age are considered to be normal by many medical professionals, although physiological or biological compensations are possible.  Aging does increase the risk for some sight-threatening eye conditions, which is why it is important to be informed and to have regular eye check-ups.

Let’s say there’s a woman who is 56-years old and her eye doctor says she has borderline high intraocular pressures of 26 and 27 mm Hg (mercury).  The doctor will test her visual field and optic nerve.  If the results of the visual field are fine, the doctor will either monitor it regularly or possibly give medication to lower the pressure anyway.

Here, the patient’s body is telling us way ahead of time that something is wrong, and steps need to be taken to help it.  Instead of being thankful to the body for this warning and taking measures to correct it with a natural program, the doctor will either wait until the problem becomes serious enough to demand medications, or put the patient on medications in a preventive mode, without attempting to address the real underlying issues.  An often effective natural approach includes dietary changes, nutritional supplementation, such as: omega-3 essential fatty acids, alpha lipoic acid, vitamin C and physical exercise, which have all been shown by research to help lower eye pressure naturally without medication.

Common Aging Eye Conditions

The age-related eye conditions that are more common than others, and also less serious, are:

  1. Dry Eyes, due to lessened production of tears, are experienced by 75% of seniors over the age of 65. Dry eyes can also be caused or worsened by smoking, drinking coffee, menopausal changes, computer use, overuse of sugar, dehydration, and allergies or could be a symptom of a larger problem like diabetes or auto-immune diseases. Artificial tears are sometimes prescribed but these give only temporary relief and may exacerbate the problem. Homeopathic eye drops for women and for men are quite helpful.
  2. Presbyopia, or Age-Related Focus Dysfunction, is a blurring of close vision which makes it difficult to do fine work. While far-sightedness is caused by inherited and environmental influences on the shape of the eyeball, Presbyopia is due to age-related thickening of proteins within the lens, making the lens less flexible.
  3. Cataracts are so frequent among seniors that many eye doctors consider them to be normal. Blurry, hazy vision that worsens over time and over-sensitivity to light are signs that an opaque spot on the lens of the eye may be growing and obscuring vision. Causes may include: buildup of free radicals in the metabolism, chronic stress or pain of the back and neck, food sensitivities or allergies, eye-harming side-effects of prescribed drugs, smoking, and poor digestion.  Cataracts, too, may be formed as a result of other eye surgery or diseases such as diabetes.

Reduced pupil size makes seniors’ pupils less responsive to changes in ambient lighting, needing more light for reading and protection from bright sunlight.

Serious Eye Conditions

Other age-related eye conditions are more serious and need to be addressed immediately either through holistic approaches or in combination with conventional medicine.  These more severe eye ailments are:

Glaucoma – refers to diseases that cause optic nerve damage, some of which are related to an increase in intraocular pressure, and which cause progressive vision loss.

Symptoms are very few until diminished vision is noticed.  Conventional treatments can be pretty drastic but research is showing that vigorous exercise may reduce the intraocular pressure associated with glaucoma.

Macular degeneration – is the leading cause of blindness among Americans over the age of 65.  Dry macular degeneration causes gradual central vision loss and results from aging and thinning of tissues in the macula or deposit of pigment.  Wet macular degeneration arises from the body’s attempt to make up for lack of nutrients by building extra blood vessels beneath the retina, but the new blood vessels leak fluid which causes permanent damage to the retinal cells.  Studies are showing that AMD (age-related macular degeneration) is a nutritional and lifestyle responsive eye disease.

Diabetic retinopathy – is vision threatening damage to the retina caused by diabetes.  Blindness is largely preventable if the patient and doctor work together for proper use of medications, blood sugar testing, supplements, proper diet and lifestyle.

Cataracts – Many eye doctors still consider cataract surgery to be the only remedy.  However, there are holistic alternatives that may help, such as; homeopathic or nutritional eye drops.

Nutritional, Herbal & Microcurrent Therapies Effective for Eye Ailments

Antioxidants that have been shown to slow or even reverse the progress of macular degeneration are found in blueberries, artichokes and pecans.  Important antioxidants include: the carotenoids, astaxanthin, lutein and zeaxanthin, as well as nutrients and enzymes that behave like or support antioxidant functioning – glutathione, superoxide dismutase, CoQ10, and alpha lipoic acid.

The carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin are pigments found in fruits and vegetables, and in high concentration in the macula of the human eye, where they reduce the risk of light-induced oxidation damage that could lead to macular degeneration and glaucoma.  Foods rich in these nutrients are green leafy vegetables, especially kale and spinach, collards and turnip greens.

Omega-3 fatty acids have been found to reduce the risk of both dry eye and macular degeneration.  Omega-3 fatty acids are found in cold water fish such as sardines, herring, salmon and tuna and to a lesser degree in dark green leafy vegetables, flax seeds, walnuts and flaxseed oil.

Vitamin A as an antioxidant plays an important role in immune function, helping the surface of the eye to be an effective barrier to bacteria and viruses.  It may help or slow the progression of dry macular degeneration. Beta carotene (Vitamin A) is found in carrots, sweet potatoes, and cantaloupe.

Vitamin C helps the body form connective tissue like collagen which is found in the cornea of the eye.  Studies are showing that Vitamin C may help prevent the formation of cataracts and vision loss from macular degeneration.  Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits and many vegetables such as bell peppers.

Vitamin E is an antioxidant which helps protect cells in the eye, and throughout the body, from damage due to metabolic by-products. Vitamin E is found in wheat germ, almonds, hazelnuts and sunflower seeds.

Zinc may help against macular degeneration and night blindness by helping to absorb Vitamin A and helping enzymes fight free radicals. Zinc is found in oysters, seafood, eggs, black-eyed peas and wheat germ. Selenium helps to absorb Vitamin E and is found in oysters and other seafood as well as in wheat germ.

Magnesium helps relax the muscles that control circulation of vitreous gel in the eye; it is found in almonds, wheat germ, and green leafy vegetables. Chromium is a trace element, tied to blood sugar regulation, fat metabolism and blood circulation. It is especially found in brewer’s yeast, eggs, and potato skins.

Microcurrent Stimulation Treatment

  • Re-stimulate and energize dormant retinal cells (cells are like batteries — when they run low in energy, they become sluggish and dormant),
  • Boost the cells’ ability to rid themselves of waste products which interferes with the flow of energy, nutrients and communication,
  • Increases blood supply to the area stimulated. By increasing blood flow to the area, cells and tissues still living can get nourished and refreshed.

Research suggests that the microcurrent electrical stimulation device approximates the level of electrical activity present in a healthy eye, resulting in stimulating retinal activity and energizing dormant cells, as well as improving microvascular circulation, nerve conduction and velocity.

Microcurrent stimulation increases ATP (energy) synthesis in the retinal cells needed for membrane viability and waste management.  (A major concern for those with dry macular degeneration is excess waste not reabsorbed and eliminated which results in waste accumulation called “drusen”.)

The treatment of patients with Macular Degeneration entails the periodic administration of very precise amounts of tightly controlled electrical current through electrodes applied to the skin at specific areas around the eye. The electrical current is used to stimulate the retina as well as the diseased macula in order to help protect sight.  The procedure is safe, non-invasive and painless and no side effects or adverse reactions have been observed.

There are several metabolic processes that are enhanced through the use of Microcurrent Stimulation.  The first way is to boost the cells’ ability to rid themselves of waste products.  A cell with “stuck” waste products becomes a dead cell and interferes with cellular communication throughout the area where it is located.  Cells need to take in nutrients and eliminate waste like all other living organisms.  The energy supplied by Microcurrent Stimulation innervates cells to become vital and less sluggish.

The second way Microcurrent Stimulation works is by increasing blood supply to the area stimulated.  By increasing blood flow to the area, cells and tissues are nourished, refreshed and oxygenation is increased.

In general, the electrical current gently wakes up the cells from sleep and stimulates the healing process.

Addressing Nutrient Deficiencies

Seniors, whose efficiency of digestion is compromised, and who take medications which deplete key nutrients, or who live in institutions, may have trouble getting enough fruits and vegetables to supply the nutrients required for eye health.

Juicing is a flavorful and efficient way to guarantee an adequate intake of enzymes, vitamins and minerals. A daily glass of fresh organic juice for retinal support may contain ginger, garlic, asparagus, leeks, spinach, Jerusalem artichokes, parsley, pumpkin, beets, celery, cabbage, carrots, raspberries, and chlorophyll; while a glass of juice aimed at optic nerve health prevention would include celery, cucumber, carrots, radish, parsley, turnip, beets, raspberries, cabbage, apples, and plums.

Case Histories of Effective Alternative Treatment

Case Hx 1 – for Glaucoma

Trish P., a 58 year-old Caucasian woman, came in for her annual eye exam.  Her only symptom was that her current reading glasses felt a little weak.  She was given slightly stronger reading glasses to help her near visual acuity.  Her optic nerves were normal.  When I tested her eye pressure, her right eye was 26 mm HG and her left eye was 27 mm Hg (normal eye pressure is 10-22 mm Hg).

Due to the fact that her eye pressures were above normal, a visual field test (to test her peripheral vision) was done, plus an optic nerve scan called an OCT of the optic nerve.  Both these tests came out within normal.  There were no other medical issues.

Since high eye pressure could be an early sign of glaucoma there were three possible choices:

  1. Come back every 3 months to check her eye pressure and, if needed, do the visual field and OCT optic nerve scan again.
  2. If the eye pressure did not come down to normal, possibly prescribe an eye drop medication to help lower the eye pressure.
  3. Give her a diet and glaucoma prevention program that incorporates exercise, nutrition, herbs; possibly, chiropractic and body work, acupuncture

The first two choices are the traditional choices offered in most medical offices.  By following the third choice, within three months, her eye pressure was then tested to be: right eye 17 mm Hg and left eye 16 mm Hg.  It has now been 12 years and her pressures have never been high again nor has she ever needed any medication for her eyes.

Glaucoma daily protocol

Vitamin A 5000 IU

Beta carotene 15,000 IU

Vitamin c 2000 mg

Co enzyme Q10 100 mg

Coleus 200 mg

Bilberry 200 mg

Grape seed extract 200 mg

Ginkgo biloba 120 mg

Omega 3 oils 1000 mg

Omega 6 (borage or black currant seed) oils 1000 mg

Alpha lipoic acid 150 mg

Juicing recipe (some combination of the food below plus your favorite fruits and vegetables)

Celery, cucumber, carrots, radish, parsley, turnip, beets, raspberries, cabbage, apple, plums (not too much fruit).

Case Hx 2 – for Glaucoma

Betty L. was diagnosed with glaucoma at the relatively young age of 53.  She started drop therapy and found she was highly allergic to all but two medications.  The drops worked to lower her pressures for almost a year, but then her pressures started to creep up again.  She had run out of options for drop therapy and was facing laser surgery, when she found my website and ordered some of my recommended products for Glaucoma.  She convinced her ophthalmologist to delay laser surgery, while she gave these products a chance.

She was so excited and grateful to report that after using the herbal products, Coleus Forskolli and herbs for her liver, her IOP went from 19 to 14 in 7 weeks.  Laser surgery was canceled, and her ophthalmologist asked her to bring the herbs in at her next checkup because he wanted to see what she was taking.

 

Case Hx 3 – for Macular Degeneration

Frances C. was a 78 year-old woman in good health.  She had a thorough eye examination from her eye doctor that showed dry macular degeneration in both eyes.  Her visual acuities were 20/100 in the right eye and 20/60 in the left eye.  Her main component was when she focused on reading or faces, it seemed wavy and fuzzy. Her eye doctor told her to come back in 6 months to monitor it.

We put her on a nutritional/ herbal protocol (see below) along with microcurrent stimulation treatment twice a day for 10 minutes at a time.  After 6 months on the program, her vision in the right eye was 20/60 and her acuity in the left eye was 20/40.

This was very exciting as she now can pass the driving test and she is now 82 years and her macular degeneration has continued to be stable and has not gotten worse.

Macular Degeneration Daily Protocol

(Below is just a general protocol emphasizing the important nutrients; an individualized program for each patient is recommended.)

Vitamin A 5,000 IU

Beta carotene 15,000 IU

Lutein 10 mg

Meso zeaxanthin 10 mg

Zeaxanthin 2 mg

Vitamin c 2000 mg

Magnesium 500 mg

Bilberry 200 mg

Grape seed extract 200 mg

Resveratrol 100 mg

Omega3 oils 1000 mg

Omega 6 (Borage or Black Currant Seed) oils 1000 mg

Taurine 750 mg

Zinc 30 mg

Wear U.V blocking sunglasses wrap around type whenever outside

Eliminate smoking

Microcurrent Stimulation Treatment

Juicing recipe (some combination of the foods below plus your favorite fruits and vegetables)

Broccoli, green and red bell pepper, raspberries, apples, leafy greens, parsley

Case Hx 4 – for Cataracts

Douglas H., a 70 year-old male came into the office complaining of glare and blurry vision.  The examination showed he was beginning to develop cataracts in both eyes.  The right sought worse than the left.  His visual acuity with glasses in the right eye was 20/40; in the left eye 20/30.

I recommended a diet and nutrition program increasing the antioxidants and staying away from refined sugar, alcohol and limiting dairy products.  I also told him to wear UV blocking sunglasses that wrapped around his eyes. It is now 8 years later.  His acuity in his right eye now is 20/30 and his left eye 20/25, though he still has small cataracts on examination, he no longer complains of glare and his vision has improved.

Cataract nutritional daily protocol

Vitamin A 5000 IU

Beta carotene 15,000 IU

B2 100 mg

Vitamin C 2000 mg

Vitamin D 2000 IU

Vitamin E 400 IU

Chromium 200 mcg

Carnosine 1000 mg

Zinc 30 mg

Selenium 200 mcg

Alpha lipoic acid 150 mg

N-acetyl-cysteine 600 mg

Succus Cineraria Maritima 1 drop three times a day homeopathic eye drop for cataracts

N-acetyl-carnosine Can-C™ Eye Drops with 1% n-acetyl-carnosine

or Oclumed eye drops (solution containing n-acetyl-Carnosine eye drops plus other antioxidants for lens support including Glutathione, Taurine, n-acetyl-cysteine)  1 drop three times a day

 

Juicing recipe (some combination of the nutrients below plus your favorite fruits and vegetables)

Carrot, celery, spinach, endive, blueberry, parsley, apple

Lifestyle Measures for Preventive Eye Care

Diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease also increase the risk of age-related eye diseases.  And as we get older, poor eyesight can lead to depression and anxiety – such as fear of falling – producing unnecessary changes in gait, loss of balance, and restricted mobility at a time of life when staying active is important to maintain health and quality of life.  The good news is that maintaining a healthy lifestyle, which includes regular exercise, good nutrition, regular check-ups and eye vitamins or food supplements, may prevent or ameliorate many of those conditions.  Therefore, prevention is the best medicine for warding off debilitating eye conditions.

Here are valuable lifestyle measures to follow to ensure that they don’t occur:

  1. Protect eyes from intense ultraviolet light: wear a hat with a brim when going out, wear sunglasses that protect the eyes from UV radiation – sunglasses that wrap around the eyes are especially beneficial.
  2. Watch the sugar intake. Again, for most eye conditions, a higher risk of developing problems is associated with higher sugar intake. For example, in the case of cataracts, sugar limits the ability of the eye to keep the lens clear.
  3. Adopt a healthy diet including lots of leafy greens, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, and drink water daily.
  4. Do not smoke. Smoking substantially increases risk factors. For example, the risk of developing cataracts is doubled if one smokes.  For men, smoking more than a pack a day, the risk is 205% higher, and for women, the risk is 63%.  For macular degeneration, if one smokes, the risk is 2.5 to 3.5 times greater.  If one is over age 80 and smokes, the risk jumps to 5.5 times more likely to develop AMD.
  5. Get regular exercise. Walking is one of the best things we can do. Interestingly, a research study in 2013 pointed out that physical unfitness is a greater risk than obesity.  In other words, people who are overweight but who are physically fit – people who walk and do other daily activity involving movement – have better overall health than those who are thin.
  6. Don’t keep your eyes focused in one place for a sustained period of time. Change your focus; look up out a window when you’re doing close work to give your eyes a break. Sustained contraction of the eyes can lead to a contraction of your upper body and neck. Also, don’t stare, that causes tension on the visual system.
  1. Get at least 20 minutes of natural sunlight a day. Go for a walk. The eyes are light sensing organs. It’s important to get enough sunlight so that they operate optimally.

Many patients ask me, is there a point where the conventional and alternative approaches can work together?

I first explain that it is the body’s remarkable defense system and genetic knowledge that keep us healthy and alive.  The body often gives us signals way ahead of time that a problem is emerging, and that we need to make some changes.  We need to pay attention to these signals, and listen to what our body is asking from us.  The advances that modern medicine has made are astounding, particularly in dealing with acute problems and emergencies.  If a patient suddenly had a retinal detachment, I would want them to be taken to a conventional retinal specialist immediately.  But conventional medicine has lost sight – no pun intended – of the long-term picture, which is what we must focus on for nurturing the body back to health.  Working on this plane is really the strength of what is referred to as Integrative Medicine.  Ultimately, it will be the blending of traditional and alternative medicine that in the long run will provide the best treatment for health and healing – and keeping one’s precious gift of sight for an entire lifetime.

*****************************************

Dr. Marc Grossman, O.D., L.Ac., is best described as a Holistic Eye Doctor, who uses an integrative and multi-disciplinary approach.  Since 1980, he has dedicated himself to helping people with such conditions ranging from myopia and dry eyes to potentially vision-threatening diseases such as, macular degeneration and glaucoma.  His varied academic training includes degrees from SUNY and Tri-state Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine – amid other schools – in Optometry, Biology, Physical Education and Learning Disabilities, also: yoga, bioenergetics, nutrition, Chinese medicine and acupuncture, the Alexander technique and Feldenkrais.  Instrumental as founder of several health centers in the Hudson Valley, Dr. Grossman is the author of the best-seller, Magic Eye Beyond 3D: Improve Your Vision, and lectures nationally on various eye care topics.

Dr.Marc Grossman O.D.L.Ac. Medical Director

www.naturaleyecare.com www.drgrossman2020.com ” The

question is not what you look at, but what you see.

” – Henry David Thoreau