Can Macular Degeneration Be Reversed? 2
Reversing Macular Degeneration
Falling ill is never an enjoyable experience. However, we are typically able to use the knowledge that in time we will recover to push ourselves through the worst phases of an illness. Knowing that better days are just hours away helps us to maintain hope. In the case of an irreversible illness it becomes far more difficult to maintain a positive outlook. We can wish for a reduction in symptoms or even a cure, but we are never sure that they will arrive.
Macular degeneration is a disease in which the macula and retina are damaged, often resulting in vision loss. In fact, macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss among elderly Western populations. With the speed at which macular degeneration progresses and the widespread occurrence of the disease, a macular degeneration diagnosis may make one feel like vision loss is inevitable. Luckily, more recent research is showing that changes in diet can do wonders to guard against, slow the progression of, and possibly even reverse some of the symptoms of macular degeneration.
Intake of Vitamins, Minerals, and Phytochemicals
A research study conducted by the National Eye Institute found that supplementation of key nutrients including vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, and copper helped to slow both vision loss and the progression of intermediate macular degeneration. Additional research took this a step further, looking at the effects of a category of phytochemicals called carotenoids.
Apparently there is a bit of truth to the old adage that eating carrots is beneficial for one’s eyes. Carotenoids are responsible for giving fruits and vegetables like carrots, tomatoes, and bell peppers their bright orange, yellow, and red hues. Types of carotenoids, including zeaxanthin, lutein, and beta carotene, play a critical role in maintaining eye health. These carotenoids aid in guarding against vision loss while also improving one’s ability to see colors and fine detail. Additionally, they also play a role in protecting our eyes against the damaging effects of the UV light we encounter outdoors as well as the blue light that emanates from our laptops, phones and other digital devices.
Additional Nutrients to Aid in Eye Health
While adequate intake of the vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals mentioned above is critical for eye health, there exist a few additional compounds that also show promise. Taurine is an organic acid found in its highest concentration in meats. Within the body, a high concentration of taurine is found in the retina’s photoreceptor cells and is thought to protect the eye from UV damage.
Omega 3 fatty acids - most often found in fatty fish - also play a role in eye health. Omega 3 fatty acids help to reduce systemic inflammation and may be able to reduce intraocular pressure.
A proper diet, rich in key nutrients, can do wonders to improve wellbeing and guard against disease. The vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and additional compounds mentioned are particularly beneficial for eye health. However, these nutrients are not just for those who are concerned over their vision; they are a great addition to any balanced nutrition plan. Do you currently take a supplement to help get the above recommendations? We’d love to hear about it!
Dr. Jenna Zigler
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How Does Macular Degeneration Lead to Blindness? 0
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Macular Degeneration In Young Populations 0
Macular Degeneration in Young People
Juvenile macular degeneration is an inherited condition. The defective gene that causes it can be inherited from one or both parents. It occasionally shows in children, teenagers and young adults, although congenital forms of macular degeneration are relatively rare.
People with Best Disease may not have any symptoms at all. The progression of the disease is also unpredictable because each person who has it is a unique case. They usually have it in both eyes, but the progression could even be different in each eye. If a child has a parent with Best Disease, they have a 50% chance of having it too.
It develops between ages 3 and 15, but may not be diagnosed until vision loss starts later in life. Its symptoms and stages are the same as those noted for Vitelliform Macular Dystrophy below.
Vitelliform Macular Dystrophy
Vitelliform Macular Dystrophy presents itself in adults. Less than a quarter of them have the mutated genes thought to be responsible for this dystrophy. The cause for the rest of the cases is unknown.
There are several stages in Vitelliform. They are the same no matter how the disease presents. People can skip stages or never progress beyond the first few. It is different for each sufferer. In the first stage, everything looks normal, but electro-oculography retinal tests begin to register abnormalities.
During stage two, lipofuscin builds up beneath the macula. Lipofuscin is a fatty yellow pigment that resembles an egg yolk, hence the disease having a name that means yolk (vitelline). Lipofuscin damages photoreceptor cells in the macula and can be seen during an eye exam. The rest of the eye looks normal.
In stage three, the lipofuscin can break through the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) and accumulate in the subretinal space. During stage four, the lipofuscin breaks up and gives the build up and appearance of scrambled eggs. Vision deteriorates at this point. In stage five, the lipofuscin disappears, but the damage to the RPE remains.
In stage six, a yellow cyst forms under the RPE. Vision can remain normal, or as normal as the accumulated damage allows, for years. When the cyst erupts, the fluid deposits in the RPE and macula. It causes further vision loss though the patient retains their peripheral vision.
Stargardt's disease is the most common of all types of juvenile macular degeneration. Usually, both parents have a recessive gene for the disease, meaning that they do not have it and may not know they carry the gene. There is a form of Stargardt's disease that can be inherited from a parent who has a dominant gene. In that case, the parent definitely has the disease too.
A child with Stargardt's disease may complain of vision loss, but tests may come back normal. That is why it is often diagnosed later in life, as children are often not the best at relaying their symptoms. Symptoms may include blurred or distorted vision, small blind spots, moving blind spots, difficulty adjusting to different levels of light, and light sensitivity. There may even be a loss of color vision, and loss of depth perception.
As it progresses, changes will appear in the choroid (a layer of blood vessels that feed the macula). Later, small yellowish white flecks will appear in their retinal periphery. Unfortunately, not much can be done for treatment of Stargardt’s, although research continues to dive into future options. Do you know anyone with congenital macular degeneration?
Dr. Travis Zigler
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