Comedy Legend, Roseanne Barr, Is Going Blind!

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Roseanne Barr revealed earlier this weekend that she's going visually impaired. In an interview with The Daily Beast, the 62-year-old comedian described her battle with macular deterioration and glaucoma - two eyesight illnesses which get gradually worse as time passes and can take away vision.

Barr's doctors have not provided a timeline, but her symptoms are worsening: "My vision is closing in now," she said. "I just try and enjoy vision as much as possible. Y'know, living it up."


Macular deterioration is a breakdown of the part of the retina that enables us to see fine details involved with vision; while glaucoma destroys the nerve that connects the retina to the brain, and is often a result of fluid build-up and pressure in the eyes. (Barr said in the interview that she helps relieve the pressure by using marijuana, which is known to temporarily lower pressure inside the eye.)

"It's somewhat uncommon that Roseanne Bar has both, but not extraordinary," explains ophthalmologist Steven A. Shanbom, MD, of Shanbom Eye Specialists in Berkley, Mich. Though there are a few controllable risk factors, certain people are genetically predisposed to such conditions, so Barr might be susceptible to both. "Certainly it's sad. The combination of the two is terrible. Macular degeneration takes away her central vision, and glaucoma is taking away her peripheral vision," Dr. Shanbom adds. (He is not treating Roseanne Barr, and does not know the specifics of her case.)

The risk for both diseases increases for anyone after age 60, with some people, especially African Americans, at greater risk in their 40s. That's why the American Academy of Opthalmology suggests receiving a base line eye examination when you turn the big 4-0, even if you have awesome eyesight. In the early stages, you can have either condition, but have no signs and symptoms at all. Things like a family history or high blood pressure, or issues within the eye (like having a thinner cornea, for example) might lead your MD to prescribe drops that can reduce your chances of developing glaucoma by about half.


There is no cure for either disease. But like those eyedrops, there are treatments that may postpone the advancement of early-stage glaucoma (from other drugs to surgery), and therapies that might halt further vision loss in advanced cases of macular degeneration (including an implantable telescope). The future looks brighter however: An animal study published this month suggests that an injection of stem cells into the eye might slow or even reverse the effects of early-stage macular degeneration.

There are also simple things you can start doing right now to ward off these diseases. Here, five ways to protect your peepers.

 

Slip on your shades-even when it's cloudy

Sun exposure can up the risk for glaucoma and macular degeneration, as well as cataracts (clouding of the lenses). Make sure your sunglasses offer 99% to 100% UV protection. Sporting a pair that doesn't filter UV light is more dangerous than wearing no shades at all, because the dark lenses cause your pupils to dilate and allow in more harmful rays.

 

Schedule in a regular walk

Studies indicate that aerobic exercise can reduce the eye pressure that leads to glaucoma, and may improve blood flow to the retina and optic nerve. According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, all you need to do is raise your pulse 20% to 25% (which could mean a brisk walk) for 20 minutes, a minimum of four times a week.

Related: 9 tweaks that make walking workouts more effective


Eat your greens

Spinach, kale, and other leafy greens are packed with lutein and zeaxanthin-antioxidants that lower your risk of developing macular degeneration (and cataracts too), research shows. Another good source: egg yolks.

 

Snack on almonds, citrus, and berries

Almonds are loaded with vitamin E (a handful provides about half your daily dose), which slows macular degeneration; while citrus fruit and berries are filled with vitamin C, which cuts your odds of developing the disease.

 

Avoid cigarette smoke

While smoking is bad news for many parts of your body, you may not have considered eyes to be one of them. However, smoking doubles your risk of macular degeneration. Avoiding cigs can not only protect your lungs and heart, it can protect your peepers too.