DEAR DR. DONOHUE: In the last years of his life, my dad suffered from macular degeneration, and it made his life difficult. No one else in my family has had it. I hear vitamins can prevent it. If that is so, which ones, and how much? – D.G.
ANSWER: Age-related macular degeneration happens later in life, usually well after 50. Family history and genes have hand in its development, but having had one parent with it does not doom a person to coming down with it too. Smoking and high-fat diet increase the risk of it. Eating lots of green, leafy vegetables and having fish twice week appear to prevent it.
When the doctor looks into your eyes with a scope, he or she can tell you if there are signs that you might face macular degeneration in the future. Yellow deposits in the retina are warning signs that it could crop up. Those deposits are called drusens.
The macula is a small, circular area of the retina that contains visual cells necessary for reading and fine work. “Degeneration” means that those cells begin to wither and die. Advanced macular degeneration affects sight needed for central vision, but off-to-the-side vision remains.
The vitamin-mineral treatment you ask about doesn’t prevent macular degeneration nor does it prevent the progression of mild macular changes. It can slow the worsening of moderate or severe macular degeneration. The daily regimen is 500 mg of vitamin C, 400 IU of vitamin E, 15 mg of beta carotene, 80 mg of zinc and 2 mg of copper. This isn’t something that people should start taking on their own; it’s something that should come recommended by their doctor. These doses of vitamins and minerals are higher than the recommended daily allowance calls for.
The booklet on macular degeneration goes into greater depth in discussing both the wet and dry forms of this illness. Readers can order a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue – No. 701W, Box 536475, Orlando, FL32853- 6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./ $6.75 Canada with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: How effective is niacin at reducing cholesterol? What are its side effects? I can’t take statins. – F.W.
ANSWER: In small doses, niacin is a B vitamin. In large doses, niacin lowers LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol), raises HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) and brings down triglycerides – fats that contribute to artery plugging. It’s a good medicine, especially for people like you, who can’t tolerate statins.
Niacin can cause flushing, itching and headache, especially when a person first starts it. Such symptoms are most common with crystalline niacin, the kind that’s rapidly absorbed. With controlled-release niacin, the kind that’s slowly absorbed, those reactions are less frequent, but controlled-release niacin can damage the liver and raise blood sugar and uric acid. Uric acid is the stuff that triggers gout. A third form of niacin, intermediate-release niacin, has fewer side effects but is more expensive and requires a prescription. A brand name for the intermediate-release variety is Niaspan.
Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL32853- 6475.
©2007 North America Synd.