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Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness among the elderly. More than 25 percent of Americans over 65 will develop the condition, which involves the breaking down of the back part of the retina, the macula. Central vision and detail perception deteriorate, while peripheral vision is unaffected. Since medical treatment is sadly lacking for macular degeneration, some natural treatments that seem to help are worth a look.

But first, there are physical conditions that foster macular degeneration. Circulatory problems from high blood pressure or hardening of the arteries increase the risk. Foods and habits that contribute to these conditions, such as smoking, coffee, black or green tea, alcohol, and meat, should be avoided. Low blood pressure can also be a problem if the brain and the eyes are not getting enough circulation. Anemia can also starve the macula. This may be caused by internal bleeding, lack of iron or poor intestinal absorption. Blood building foods like spinach and parsley can help.

Studies are showing that macular degeneration may be cause by free radicals and alleviated by antioxidants found in foods such as fruits and, especially, leafy vegetables. It has been found that the risk of macular-degeneration is cut in half by five or more servings a week of anti-oxidant rich fruits and vegetables. Spinach and collard greens appear to be most beneficial, containing as they do the beneficial compounds lutein and zeaxanthin. Similar compounds are found in broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, mustard and turnip greens, and watercress. In this case, supplements do not have the same effect as the whole food. Never take supplements before checking with your doctor.

A potent antioxidant called anthocyanosides, found in blueberries, bilberries, huckleberries, blackberries, grapes, plums, and wild cherries, has been proven to restore visual acuity and enlarge visual fields. The substance works to strengthen weakened capillaries in the retina and slow the development of macular degeneration. Supplements work best, using 400 milligrams of bilberry and 20 milligrams of beta-carotene.

Gingko works to increase the flow of blood to the retina. Combining gingko extract with antioxidant teas, such as mint tea, one study shows, may even reverse retina damage. 80 milligrams of gingko extract twice daily can significantly improve distance vision. Gingko leaves do not have the effect of gingko extracts. A 50:1 standardized extract contains the extract of 50 pounds of leaves. Higher than 250 milligrams a day can cause diarrhea and restlessness, but 150-200 milligrams of standard gingko extract is fine.

The Chinese medicine, Shi Hu Ye Guang Wan, can help to nourish the back of the eye. Lycium Rehmania tea helps alleviate macular degeneration. Fo-Ti increases circulation by clearing plaque.