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Too Much Sun, Too Few Antioxidants Spell Eye Trouble
Date:10/14/2008

es is bad," said Dr. Robert Cykiert, an associate professor of ophthalmology at New York University Langone Medical Center in New York City.

Previous studies had suggested that blue light may damage the retina and set eyes on the path to developing AMD, a leading cause of vision loss in Americans aged 60 and older.

Studies have also shown that antioxidant enzymes such as vitamins C and E, the carotenoids (lutein and zeaxanthin), and zinc can protect against blue light. But no one had really looked at how blue light and antioxidants might interact to affect the risk for AMD.

After studying nearly 4,500 older Europeans (average age 73.2 years), the study authors, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, found no overall association between blue-light exposure and neovascular (early) AMD.

However, blue light exposure was associated with neovascular AMD in 25 percent of the people with the lowest antioxidant levels.

"This is the first time they've looked at this in so many patients, but it makes sense from a physiological standpoint," said Dr. David M. Kleinman, an assistant professor of ophthalmology at the University of Rochester Eye Institute. "In addition to there being some things we can't control, like genetic predisposition, really taking care of ourselves in a certain way will really help reduce vision loss from AMD."

That includes exercising and controlling blood pressure and cholesterol, added Kleinman, a retina specialist who studies macular degeneration.

A second study in the same issue of the journal found that, overall, visual impairment is more common in people with diabetes than in those without the disease.

The news is especially worrisome given the veritable epidemic of diabetes: In 2005, an estimated 14.6 million Americans had been diagnosed with diabetes, on top of 6.2 million undiagnosed individuals. The number of people with diagnosed diabetes in the
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