Macular degeneration (AMD) is caused by deterioration of the retina and can severely impair vision. There is no cure for macular degeneration, but it can be treated with vitamins, laser therapy, medications, and vision aids. Macular degeneration is the leading cause of severe vision loss in people over age 60. It occurs when the small central portion of the retina, known as the macula, deteriorates. The retina is the light-sensing nerve tissue at the back of the eye. Because the disease develops as a person ages, it is often referred to as age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Although macular degeneration is almost never a totally blinding condition, it can be a source of significant visual disability.
Macular degeneration is one of the leading causes of blindness and affects some 13 million people in this country alone. The macula is the small and highly sensitive portion of the retina responsible for detailed central vision. Basically, macular degeneration causes the retinal nerve cells in the macula to begin dying off.
The condition is especially debilitating because it affects the most important part of our eyesight — the central sharp vision. There are two forms of macular degeneration (ARMD):
• Dry form: This accounts for about 90% of cases and is related to aging.
• Wet form: The wet form is the worst and usually progresses much faster. It’s most commonly seen in smokers.
• Genetics – People with a family history of macular degeneration are at a higher risk.
• Race – Caucasians are more likely to develop the disease than African-Americans or Hispanics/Latinos.
• Smoking – Smoking doubles the risk of macular degeneration.
Cataracts and macular degeneration often occur together because they are both caused by the same process. The following nutrients help fight both conditions:
• Omega-3 oil. You want oil that is high in DHA, which has been shown to protect the retina against macular degeneration.
• Curcumin. This is a powerful anti-inflammatory flavonoid. It is also an extremely powerful antioxidant against a number of types of free radicals.
• Alpha-Lipoic Acid. A powerful antioxidant that is normally found in every cell, and tissue, alpha-lipoic acid reduces iron toxicity, lowers mercury levels, and restores other antioxidants.
• Magnesium (as magnesium citrate or citrate/malate.) Magnesium protects retinal neurons, reduces inflammation, and improves energy. It also protects the brain and prevents atherosclerosis and the metabolic syndrome. Do not take magnesium with tea since it increases aluminum absorption.
• Ginkgo biloba. A German study found that Ginkgo significantly improved the vision of people with the dry form of AMD. Do not take Ginkgo if you are taking blood-thinners.
• Zinc Picolinate.
• Folate and Methylcobalamin (vitamin B12).
• Avoid all food-based excitotoxins. There are many sources of excitotoxins including monosodium glutamate (MSG), aspartame, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, soy proteins (and all soy products in general), Portabella mushrooms, natural flavorings, sodium or calcium caseinate, protein drinks and carrageenan (a food additive).
Studies show that those suffering from diabetes, macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa and glaucoma have dramatically elevated glutamate levels in the fluid of their eyeballs — so it stands to reason that glutamate in your food can significantly worsen all these diseases.
• Avoid vegetable oils. That includes corn, safflower, sunflower, peanut, canola and soybean oils. These all increase inflammation, worsen atherosclerosis and increase retinal damage.
Schedule a visit to your eye doctor. Don’t put this off. With macular degeneration, you may have symptoms such as blurriness, dark areas or distortion in your central vision, and perhaps permanent loss of your central vision. It usually does not affect your side, or peripheral vision. For example, with advanced macular degeneration, you could see the outline of a clock, yet may not be able to see the hands of the clock to tell what time it is.
When macular degeneration does lead to loss of vision, it usually begins in just one eye, though it may affect the other eye later.
Many people are not aware that they have macular degeneration until they have a noticeable vision problem or until it is detected during an eye examination.