What Is Macular Degeneration?
Macular degeneration (also known as age-related macular degeneration, or AMD) is a disease that gradually wipes out your central vision. Central vision is essential for reading, driving, and other activities that require you to see objects clearly.
A leading cause of vision loss in older Americans, AMD causes deterioration in the macula. The macula is the center of the retina, the light-sensitive tissue responsible for converting images into nerve signals and sending them to your brain.
Vitamins and Supplements for Macular Degeneration
Although more research is needed to confirm their effectiveness, the following natural remedies may help slow the progression of AMD:
1) Lutein and Zeaxanthin
A growing number of studies show that these two antioxidants may play a role in reducing the development and progression of AMD. Available in supplement form, lutein and zeaxanthin are found naturally in dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, and other foods.
See my article on Lutein for more about using this supplement to improve eye health.
2) Ginkgo Biloba
Several small studies suggest that ginkgo biloba (an herb said to stimulate circulation) may help preserve vision in people with AMD.
More about Ginkgo Biloba.
In a 2005 study on rats, researchers found that long-term supplementation with bilberry extract helped prevent AMD (as well as cataracts).
See my article on Bilberry.
4) Vitamins for Prevention
In the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (a major National Eye Institute-sponsored clinical trial that followed about 3,600 people with varying stages of AMD), researchers found that taking high levels of antioxidants and zinc daily can reduce the risk of developing advanced AMD by about 25 percent. The study's vitamin formulation consists of:
Other Tips to Prevent Macular Degeneration
Take these steps to reduce your risk of developing AMD:
- follow a diet rich in antioxidants
- get regular eye exams
- wear sunglasses when outdoors during daylight hours
- avoid smoking
- keep your blood pressure in check
- exercise regularly
The Difference Between Dry AMD and Wet AMD
Dry AMD (the more common form of AMD) occurs when light-sensitive cells in the macula slowly break down, which gradually blurs central vision in the affected eye.
In wet AMD, abnormal blood vessels grow under the macula and then leak blood or fluid, which rapidly damages the macula.
Symptoms of Macular Degeneration
Symptoms of dry AMD may include:
- blurred vision
- a blurred or blind spot in the center of your visual field
- difficulty recognizing faces
- increasing need for bright light when reading
- decrease in the intensity or brightness of colors
In people with wet AMD, straight lines often appear crooked. People with wet AMD may also experience a small blind spot, which can result in loss of central vision.
Causes of Macular Degeneration
Although the cause of macular degeneration has yet to be determined, the disease is known to develop as the eye ages. People over age 60 are at the greatest risk.
Other risk factors for AMD include:
Caucasians and women also appear to have an increased risk for AMD.
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Fursova AZh, Gesarevich OG, Gonchar AM, Trofimova NA, Kolosova NG. "Dietary supplementation with bilberry extract prevents macular degeneration and cataracts in senesce-accelerated OXYS rats." Adv Gerontol. 2005;16:76-9.