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Eye Conditions

By Nadia McMorran

We hear a lot about the eye conditions that people suffer from, but do we really know what they are? Following is a simple explanation of four common problems.


Glaucoma is a disease that usually affects those over 60 years of age, and is often a hereditary condition. It is commonly caused by increased pressure on the optic nerve, which occurs when the fluid that nourishes the tissues around the eye builds up and does not drain out of the area as quickly as it should. This constant increase in pressure can result in irreversible damage to the optic nerve, causing vision loss, or in extreme cases complete blindness. An eye exam will be able to determine if you have glaucoma, however if you have a family history of glaucoma regular check ups are recommended.


Globally, cataracts are the most common cause of vision loss in people over the age of 45. It occurs when the natural lens of the eye hardens and becomes cloudy, resulting in a gradual loss of sight, and if untreated, eventual blindness. Risk factors for developing cataracts include eye injury or surgery, diabetes, constant UV exposure, smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, statin and steroid medication, hormone replacement therapy, nutritional deficiencies and significant alcohol consumption.

When a cataract is beginning to develop, you may initially notice slight blurring in your vision or lights will become glarier than they had been before. Cataracts are easily treated and in most cases will result in full restoration of sight.

The lens of our eye is mostly made up of protein and water, with the protein arranged in a specific structure that allows light to pass through it, giving us clear sight. A cataract occurs when some of the protein in the lens begins to clump together, clouding an area of the lens making it more difficult to see.

Macular degeneration

The macular is a small area of the retina found at the back of the eye. It is responsible for your central vision (what you see directly in front of you) and your colour vision. As the macula deteriorates, this affects a person’s ability to see fine detail. It generally affects people as they age, and is often referred to as Age-Related Macular Degeneration.

Diabetic retinopathy

If you suffer from diabetes, you are at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy, which affects about 1 in 4 people with diabetes, and is particularly prevalent in those with type 2 diabetes. This is when the delicate retinal blood vessels are more likely to weaken and expand, leak or bleed, resulting in scarring which can cause severe vision loss or even blindness. Prevention can be achieved by good management of blood pressure, blood sugar, optimal nutrition through herbs and supplements and regular eye checks to ensure healthy sight.

As with anything, prevention is the best medicine. If you have any symptoms of any of these eye conditions, have a check up with an eye health professional, such as an ophthalmologist.

Herbs such as bilberry, gingko, turmeric and eyebright are fantastic for a number of eye conditions, and vitamins and minerals like zinc, copper, vitamin C, vitamin E, omega 3, lutein, zeaxanthin and beta carotene have a lot of research to back up their effectiveness in both the treatment and prevention of a number of eye conditions.


Bilberry, also known by its Latin name Vaccinium myrtillus, is a berry very similar to a blueberry. It is rich in anthocyanins, giving it a rich, dark blue or black colour and is packed full of powerful antioxidants.

Bilberries have a long medicinal history, particularly for their positive effects on vision and eye conditions such as cataracts, eye strain, glaucoma, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.

They were traditionally used to improve night vision. Some British World War II pilots would consume bilberry jam before night time flying, reporting dramatic improvements.

Research on the uses of bilberry also show vast benefits for varicose veins, haemorrhoids, bruising, fragile capillaries, poor circulation, balancing blood sugar, reducing inflammation and helping to lower cholesterol.