Macular Degeneration

What to look for

  • dim or distorted vision, especially while reading.

  • gradual, painless loss of precise central vision.

  • blank spots in your central field of vision; straight lines that appear wavy.

Because the symptoms usually do not appear in people under 55 years of age, the disorder is often referred to as age-related macular degeneration (ARMD).

If you are over 65, macular degeneration may already affect your central vision, even though most sufferers of the disease maintain functional side, or peripheral, vision throughout life. The disorder occurs in two forms, dry and wet. The less common wet form of ARMD requires immediate medical attention; any delay in treatment may result in loss of your central vision.

See Vision Problems

Causes

Macular degeneration is scarring of the macula, a spot about 1/16 inch in diameter at the centre of the retina. The macula enables you to read, watch television, drive, sew… anything that requires focused, straight-ahead vision. Although the rest of the retina can continue to process images at the sides of your field of vision, the scarring distorts or obscures part of the central image that your eye transmits to your brain.

In the dry form of ARMD, tiny yellow deposits develop beneath the macula, signalling a degeneration and thinning of nerve tissue. A small number of cases develop into the wet, or neovascular, form of ARMD, in which abnormal blood vessels grow beneath the macula. As these vessels leak blood and fluid onto the retina, retinal cells die, causing blurs and blank spots in your field of vision.

You are more susceptible to ARMD as you get older, especially if there is a history of the disorder in your family. atherosclerosis, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and nutritional deficiencies are also risk factors.

Your ophthalmologist will inspect the macula as part of a routine eye exam. A painless photographic procedure, fluorescein angiography, shows the pattern of your eye's blood vessels and can detect any abnormalities.

Traditional Treatment

Macular degeneration is not reversible, so people who develop dry ARMD typically compensate with large-print publications and magnifying lenses for everyday activities. Wet ARMD may be successfully treated with laser surgery. Both forms respond positively to ophthalmology treatment as well as to alternative remedies.

The more common dry macular degeneration cannot be cured, but it can be kept from getting worse under an ophthalmologist's care. For the wet form, a surgical procedure called laser photocoagulation destroys leaking blood vessels that have grown under the macula, halting the damaging effects to your vision. This procedure must be done before leakage from abnormal blood vessels causes irreversible damage.

Alternative/Natural Treatments

Drawing on the body's natural abilities and functions, alternative treatments attempt to restore nutrient deficiencies that can damage the macula.

Herbal Therapies - Collagen, one of the most abundant proteins in the body, plays an integral role in maintaining the strength and function of your eye tissue. The collagen structure of your retina may be strengthened and reinforced by taking bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) extract daily. Collagen, one of the most abundant proteins in the body, plays an integral role in maintaining the strength and function of your eye tissue. The collagen structure of your retina may be strengthened and reinforced by taking bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) extract daily.

Dried ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) may guard against damage to your macula by free radicals, unstable molecules found in the body that can harm cells.

Dietary Considerations

Many older people exhibit deficiencies in zinc, which normally appears in high concentrations in the retina. Speak with your doctor about taking a zinc supplement to help protect the retina from damage and improve sharpness of vision.

Antioxidants are said to fight the negative effects free radicals have on your retinal blood vessels.

Personal Care

Your eye doctor will suggest large-print reading material, magnifiers, and other aids to enhance your eyesight.

Eat more fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, cauliflower, and broccoli. Snack on nuts and seeds, which contain vitamin E. Yellow vegetables containing carotene, as well as cherries, blackberries, and blueberries, all of which contain antioxidants.

Cut back on consumption of alcohol, cigarettes, and coffee, all of which may aggravate eye problems.

When to seek further professional advice

  • you exhibit any of the symptoms listed in the description section and have never seen an ophthalmologist. Ask your doctor for a referral.

  • you exhibit any of the symptoms listed in the description section and have hypertension, diabetes, or heart disease. You are in the high-risk category for the advanced wet form of macular degeneration. Any abnormality in your vision is a sign that you may be developing the disorder.

  • you have been diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration and then you discover blank spots in your field of vision, printed matter appears distorted, or straight lines appear wavy. You may be developing the advanced wet form of macular degeneration.