Stages and Treatments for Age-Related Macular Degeneration
The macula is a small spot in the center of the retina at the back of the eye. It is responsible for clarifying objects, perceiving color, and distinguishing fine details. The macula controls the ability to read, drive, recognize faces, and see objects directly in front of the viewer.
When the macula becomes damaged, the vision in the center of the eye is affected rather than the periphery. Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the most common form of vision loss, more so than glaucoma and cataracts combined.
In this first stage, vision loss is rare. During an eye exam the doctor will notice yellow deposits, called drusen, in the macula. Drusen is believed to be cholesterol deposits that cause deterioration and are damaging to the macula. For this stage (also known as "dry AMD", which can progress to "wet AMD"), there are no FDA-approved therapies, although clinical trials are currently underway. At this point, the only treatments to slow or stop progression are diet, vitamin supplementation, and lifestyle.
Experts agree on these four recommendations:
- When outdoors, wear 100% UV protective sunglasses and a brimmed hat to shade the face.
- Walk 30 minutes a day or get other forms of consistent exercise.
- Eat large quantities of green leafy vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, kale, and collard greens. Also eat red, orange, and yellow fruits or vegetables, such as tomatoes, carrots, apricots, and peppers. The carotenoids that give them their color are particularly beneficial to the macula. Twice a week, eat fatty fish such as salmon, lake trout, sardines, herring, and albacore tuna.
- Do NOT smoke and avoid secondhand smoke.
Over 80 percent of patients diagnosed with AMD fall into the dry category. This is the best time to take action to protect oneself against further macular damage and keep good vision as long as possible.
At the intermediate stage, the drusen might have become larger, causing more damage and possibly some vision loss. Even during this stage, the above recommendations will help to slow the progression. The recent AREDS2 study found that daily supplementation with certain vitamins and minerals may slow the progression of the disease when in the intermediate stage. Our Macular Health Supplement, which contains the studied AREDS2 formula, can be found on our website!
The later stage is known as “wet AMD” because the area has tried to grow new blood vessels to deliver oxygen and nutrients to the deteriorating macula, but there is scarring so the vessels leak blood and fluid. In this stage, several medical treatments are available and can be very effective if applied early.
The most recent treatment is the sealing off of leaking blood vessels with lasers and the administration of light-sensitive drugs. There are several choices of medications called anti-angiogenic medications which are administered via injection and are proven to prevent blood vessels from growing back.
Another course of action is a cold laser treatment called photodynamic therapy. It may be used in conjunction with anti-angiogenic medications. A hot laser method called photocoagulation therapy is rarely used anymore but was the original treatment. Injections of anti-angiogenic medications such as Avastin and Lucentis are the main method used today.
Yearly Eye Appointments
People 55 years and older are at the highest risk of AMD. Dilated eye checkups once a year are crucial in order to catch Age-Related Macular Degeneration early enough to stop its progress.
The macula is only a small area in the back of the eye, but must be taken care of with diet, exercise, and 100% UV protection so that it continues to perform its many very important functions. Do you currently have AMD or know someone who does? Which treatments have made an improvement?
Dr. Travis Zigler
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Use the code HEALTHYEYES for $15 off your first order of our Ocular Health Formula Vitamin that has been studied to prevent the progression of macular degeneration according to the Age-Related Eye Disease 2 (AREDS-2) Study.