Protecting The Vision We Still Have
Last updated: March 2022
We are all aware of how precious our vision is and even more so when we start to lose it. Some might not see the point in protecting their eyes when their vision is declining, but it is so important to protect what we have left and the potential to slow progression.
Most people with Stargardt's will have some sort of light sensitivity and bright sunlight can be a problem. Not only should we wear sunglasses to ease the light sensitivity, but to protect us from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Extended exposure to UV rays can cause lots of potential problems to our eyes including cataracts, macular degeneration and damage to the retina, among others. People often don’t realize that even on bright cloudy days our eyes need protection.
Types of sunglasses
When choosing sunglasses, make sure they are 100% UV protection or category 3 and also remember children need them too. For people with Stargardt's, I have found wraparound sunglasses or large framed and polarised lenses to be the most helpful. Wraparounds and large lenses keep more of the sun’s rays from seeping in through the top or sides. Polarized lenses stop glare and light reflecting off of water and shiny surfaces.
Alongside sunglasses, hats are recommended to protect the eyes, to stop any UV rays which may escape through the top or sides of the sunglasses. When the sun is at its highest point in the sky, hats can prevent this from happening, but either way, if it’s sunny put your hat on too.
It is thought that blue light exposure from phones, TVs, and devices may increase the risk of macular degeneration, so it is worth being mindful of that and protect our eyes from these devices when using them. Exposure to blue light always makes my eyes ache. I make sure I have my devices on night mode including my phone and I wear orange-tinted blue light blocking glasses when using them, watching tv, or under fluorescent lighting.
For people with Stargardt's, it is recommended that we do not consume any synthetic forms of vitamin A from supplements, so multivitamins containing this is not advisable for us. Natural forms of vitamin A in vegetables, etc. are supposed to be ok in moderation. Our eyes cannot process vitamin A, so any extra of a high concentration isn't advisable.
Lutein and zeaxanthin
The best sources of lutein and zeaxanthin are leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale. Lutein and zeaxanthin are found in high concentrations in the macula and are believed to have important antioxidant functions, including filtering out harmful light that can reach the eyes so this may help to prevent extra damage. To make sure I am getting enough of these eye-protecting food sources, I regularly take a supplement that contains both.
I hope some of this is helpful and although Stargardt's is incurable for now, doing what I can to protect what I still have, makes me feel like I am at least doing something to help my eyes and possibly slow the potential progression.
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