Dear Dr. Donohue: I am 72. Recently, my eye doctor told me I have the start of age-related macular degeneration. At first, she said I had the eyes of a 60yearold, until she took another look. She recommended vitamins and sunglasses that give ultraviolet protection. I don't want to lose my sight. Is there any more I can do?
Macular degeneration comes in two varieties, wet and dry. The dry variety accounts for 80 per cent to 90 per cent of cases. It usually progresses very slowly. You must have very minor changes - the doctor had to take a second look to see them. Wet macular degeneration can advance rapidly. Doctors have more drugs for the wet version than they do for the dry one.
The macula is a small circle of cells in the middle of the retina at the back of the eye. It's responsible for fine vision, the kind needed to read a newspaper, watch television and drive. Even when macular vision has gone, vision off to the sides remains.
In 2001, the results of an age-related eye disease study (AREDS-1) were published. It promoted the use of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta carotene (a form of vitamin A), zinc and copper to slow the progression of moderate macular degeneration. This combination is found in drugstores throughout North America.
In 2013, AREDS-2 is scheduled for publication. Changes have been made in the vitamin and mineral composition of the pill, and it now includes omega-3 fatty acids, lutein and zeaxanthin in the mix. They're supposed to preserve macular integrity.
If you want to jump the gun on the proposed new formulation, Occuvite PresserVision with lutein and zeaxanthin is available in drugstores. Sunglasses that protect against ultraviolet rays are a sensible practice.
Dear Dr. Donohue: My wife gives me a hard time about drinking Diet Coke. She says it's not good for me because of the carbonation and other ingredients.
She says anything that cleans a toilet can't be good for your stomach. I am 72. I started drinking Diet Coke less than a year ago. I normally drink one a day. Do you feel this is harmful?
Tell your wife that if she could obtain a cup of stomach acid and digestive juices and put a nail in the mix, it would dissolve the nail in short order. If the stomach can tolerate acid and digestive enzymes, it can tolerate Coke.
Diet Coke has no sugar. That's a big plus. It should not foster weight gain. That has been disputed, but I find that weight gain from drinking Diet Coke is hard to believe. It's also been said that it increases strokes and heart attacks.
Authors of that study maintain that there might be an association. They don't say it causes them.
Another inscrutable suggestion: Readers, please don't write to me about aspartame, the artificial sweetener in these soft drinks. It's been found safe by many regulatory agencies throughout the world. I can't believe that a Diet Coke a day harms health.