What is Macular Degeneration?
The macula is a dark, yellow-orange area of the retina responsible for the eye's ability to focus clearly. When light enters through the pupil, it lands on the fovea, a small depression located right in the middle of the macula. This entire area is full of photoreceptor cells responsible for clear and focused vision.
In macular degeneration, the macula deteriorates gradually over time causing progressive vision loss. Damage to the macula results in poor vision that is often dark or blurry. Individuals often experience poor vision as they age, and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of vision loss in people over the age of 50.
In the early or intermediate stages of macular degeneration, one may experience no symptoms. The best way to determine if you have this condition is something called a comprehensive dilated eye exam in which your eye care professional performs a series of examinations. This exam will look for the accumulation of either drusen, which are yellow deposits on the retina, or retinal pigmentary changes. The presence of either indicates macular degeneration.
Types of Macular Degeneration
2. Wet. Less common. Wet AMD is an abnormal growth of blood vessels underneath the macular area. These blood vessels end up leaking causing the macula to detach from the retina. The current treatment is a photodynamic therapy that works to eliminate abnormal blood vessels. This procedure will not always restore normal vision but generally improves it and prevents the blood vessels from doing any more damage to the macular area.
Effective Prevention and Treatment Options
Currently, there is no cure for macular degeneration, however, there are ways to reduce its severity and to prevent serious vision loss.
- AREDS, or Age-Related Eye Disease Study, is a federal study from the National Eye Institute. The study concludes " . . . that taking high levels of antioxidants and zinc can reduce the risk of developing advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD) by about 25 percent."
- Stop Smoking. Smokers are at a significantly increased risk of developing AMD.
- Exercise. Studies show that those who exercise regularly have a decreased chance of developing AMD.
- Eat plenty of dark, leafy greens. Greens such as spinach or kale are rich in carotenoids, micro-nutrients shown to decrease the risk of developing AMD by around 40%.
- Acupuncture. Some ophthalmologists recommend patients receive acupuncture treatments in addition to a healthy diet. One case study found that acupuncture using electric stimulation was effective for the treatment of macular degeneration.
We will be getting into much more detail about the acupuncture view of the eye and how to treat AMD in the future. Stay tuned, and in the meantime if you have any questions you can always...