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Apple Of My Eye

A new study suggests that fruit may help prevent a leading cause of blindness in older people.

Tuesday on The Early Show, medical correspondent Dr. Emily Senay provided details about the link between fruit and lowering the risk of macular degeneration.

Vision loss and blindness can happen as people age due to a variety of causes, but the most common cause in America is macular degeneration, which affects the central part of the retina of the eye that allows you to see fine, sharp details straight ahead.

There are two forms of the disease, "dry" macular degeneration, where light-sensitive cells in the retina break down and cause a gradual loss of the eye's central vision over many years. The rarer "wet" form is more severe and causes vision loss more quickly. Senay says there are no effective treatments, so any clues that might help prevent the disease is key. Some research has shown that some vitamin and mineral supplements might help protect against or slow the disease.

A large new study in Archives of Ophthalmology followed tens of thousands of men and women over a span of almost two decades -- looking at their intake of fruits, vegetables and vitamins and other supplements. They found that eating fruit helped lower the risk of macular degeneration.

Researchers found people who ate three or more servings per day of fruit had a 36 percent lower risk of the severe form of "wet" macular degeneration compared to participants who reported eating less than one and a half servings per day.

The results were the same for men and women, although the study didn't single out any specific fruits.

Although the study is in its preliminary stage, the researchers found that none of the vegetables were strongly related to the risks of macular degeneration, including carrots. And, none of the supplements had a big effect on vision loss either.

Macular degeneration symptoms include:

  • Blurred and Distorted Central Vision
  • Difficulty Reading
  • Greater Need for More Light to See
  • Reduced Color Vision
  • Reduced Ability to See Fine Detail

    Senay says although peripheral side vision is usually is not affected by macular degeneration, it can severely hamper daily activities because of the loss of detailed central sight.

    A recent study found that extended exposure to summer sunlight in early adulthood may also increase the risk for developing macular degeneration. The use of hats and sunglasses was shown to reduce the risk.

    Other risk factors include:

  • Smoking
  • High Cholesterol
  • Heart Disease
  • High Blood Pressure

    The disease tends to occur more often in Caucasians, and more often in women than in men. It does run in families, and farsightedness and light colored eyes are also risk factors.

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