For most people, the annual visit to the eye doctor is mostly just frustrating: You peer at the blurry letters, and the doc asks, “Which one’s better? This one? Or this one? Like this? Or like that.”
Oh my God, the pressure. They’re both bad. Which to pick? The fat blurry one or the tall, slanty blurry one?
For me, annual eye exams always generate anxiety because in 2004, when the doc told me that since my last exam, I’d developed sudden and aggressive “drusen” in both eyes, it was like getting kicked in the solar plexus. Drusen is the precursor to macular degeneration, and the prognosis was, and is, dismal: blindness. Whether sooner or later was unpredictable, but based on the speed my drusen appeared, sooner seemed a lot more likely.
A second opinion from a UC Davis ophthalmologist confirmed the diagnosis, with one sliver of hope: A particular cocktail of vitamins and supplements could possibly halt the drusen and, therefore, full-blown macular degeneration. That was the best prognosis: stopping it in its tracks.
This was my only shot at not losing my eyesight, and you better believe I took it. I was so very lucky. The following year, no change. And the year after that, and the year after that. And then, at my annual exam in 2009, what the doc told me nearly knocked me out of the chair: The drusen was gone.
This is medically unheard of. So, I returned to UCD in the hopes that they’d study my regimen, and was examined by a different ophthalmologist, who, although macular drusen was noted right there in my UCD medical records, clearly wasn’t buying it because he couldn’t see any drusen either. He was an elderly gentleman, and was probably very invested in the “medically unheard of” standard, and he wasn’t about to let any contradictory living evidence rattle his beliefs.
I suggested that UCD do a study, but Dr. Oldfart just nodded, took photos of the insides of my eyes, and sent me on my way. No one ever called.
This is immensely frustrating and disappointing to me, particularly since countless desperate people who’ve just been diagnosed with drusen or macular degeneration have contacted me for that supplement cocktail I took. I had my annual exam on Wednesday, and upon my fifth year of remaining drusen-free, I’m re-listing my regimen here, with the caution that taking mega-doses of vitamins has potential risks and that you try this at your own risk.
My regimen: Two Vitamin World Ultra Woman Sport multi-vitamins, 25,000 i.u. of beta carotene (must be beta carotene, not Vitamin A, or it can be toxic) and one Eyeguard Plus With Lutein (rather than the recommended four, for a total of 40,000 i.u. of beta carotene, which carries a small increased risk of developing lung cancer if you’re a smoker or former smoker); 20 mg. lutein, 60 mg. standardized bilberry extract, 800 i.u. natural Vitamin E (d-Alpha Tocopheral — must be natural E or it can also be toxic), 1,000 mg. Vitamin C, and 60 mg. gingko biloba. Additionally, include these in your diet whenever possible: kombucha tea (it’s much cheaper to brew your own), dark leafy green vegetables, tomatoes, orange bell peppers, carrots, sweet potatoes and butternut squash, and foods high in zeaxanthin, like goji berries and pumpkin seeds.
These exact supplements cannot be any easier to find. They’re all available online at www.vitaminworld.com, and they’ll ship them right to your door. You must take them every day, faithfully, for a whole year. And no, it’s not cheap. On the other hand, how much is your eyesight worth?
I deeply hope this helps someone else. Even more, I’m hoping some university or organization will see this and do a study, and identify the exact combination of those supplements that is the magic bullet for curing macular drusen (and therefore, macular degeneration). Yes, curing. It’s possible. I have two pieces of evidence, and I’m looking through them right now.
As synchronicity would have it, on the same day I was going to the eye doctor last week and wondering if I’d still be drusen-free, a press release about the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Prevention Study-3 (CPS-3) snagged my attention. They’re seeking 300,000 participants from across the country, and one of the enrollment centers is right here in Davis.
On April 18, from 3-8 p.m. at the United Methodist Church, volunteers ages 30-65 who have never been diagnosed with any type of cancer will complete a brief written survey, have their waists measured and give a blood sample. They will then be followed via a survey every few years for 20-30 years.
The study follows CPS-1, which began in the 1950s, and CPS-2, which began in 1982 and is ongoing. The press release notes that both studies have played a major role in understanding cancer prevention and risk, particularly the relationship between smoking and lung cancer.
Those of us fortunate enough to have made it to midlife or thereabouts cancer-free can enroll, fill out a survey every few years, and potentially save thousands of lives down the road. It’s a ridiculously simple thing to do for a very noble and worthwhile cause. In addition, the person who sent the press release to me explained that this is the last year to enroll in this study. They want 1,000 more volunteers from the greater Sacramento area to enroll between April 10-20. Now they only need 999. Signing up was easy: Just call 888-604-5888, and a nice person will guide you along.
So, how about you? Is it worth your time to jot a few answers on a piece of paper every couple years to save a life? It is for me. Besides, it’ll give me something to do while I’m waiting to enroll in the macular degeneration study.
For more information about CPS-3, visit www.greatersacramentocps3.org.
— Email Debra DeAngelo at [email protected]; read more of her work at www.wintersexpress.com and www.edebra.com