Macular Degeneration: Definition, Symptoms and Treatments
Macular degeneration is a progressive eye disease that’s become quite common among the older American population nowadays.
It usually arises as a result of aging, and according to some recent studies, most people who’re 40 or over have some degree of macular degeneration. Many factors can impact the development of such a disease, and there are various types of treatments.
Macular degeneration is quite a complex disease that can even cause permanent central vision blindness, which can be either sudden or gradual. This post will provide some essential information about this eye dysfunction, as well as its causes, treatments, and ways of prevention.
What is Macular Degeneration?
Macular degeneration or age related macular degeneration (AMD) is deterioration of the macula, which is the small central area of the retina that controls visual acuity, which refers to the sharpness of your vision, and it’s measured by the ability to identify letters or numbers found on a standardized eye chart.
The health of the macula determines whether you’re able to read, drive, recognize faces, watch TV, use a computer, or do any other visual activity that requires you to see fine detail.
When the macula is damaged, your central vision is affected as well, which means that you won’t be able to see fine details, no matter if they are close or far. However, your peripheral or side vision will remain healthy.
What are the Types of Macular Degeneration?
There are two basic types of this particular eye disease, which are “dry” and “wet.”
In addition to them, there is Stargardt disease, which is a form of macular degeneration that’s found in young people, and it’s often caused by a recessive gene.
Dry Macular Degeneration (Non-Neovascular)
Dry macular degeneration is characterized by the presence of yellow deposits (drusen) that are found in the macula.
Small drusen usually don’t affect the vision, but as they grow in size and increase in number, they cause a visual distortion, which people mostly notice when they read.
In more advanced stages of dry macular degeneration form, there is a thinning of the light-sensitive layer of cells in the macula, which later leads to atrophy or tissue death. In this particular stage, patients may face blind spots in their central vision, which may lead to vision loss.
Wet Macular Degeneration (Neovascular)
The wet form of AMD is characterized by the growth of abnormal blood vessels in the macula, where they are not supposed to be.
Such blood vessels grow beneath the retina and leak blood and fluid. This leakage can cause permanent damage to light-sensitive cells, which die off, creating blind spots in the central vision.
The main cause of wet AMD is choroidal neovascularization, which provokes the abnormal blood vessel growth. It is defined as a process of the body’s misguided way of attempting to create blood vessels to supply nutrients and oxygen to the retina. Instead, it creates scarring, which usually leads to severe vision loss.
It’s essential to know that this form of AMD disease is more severe than the dry form, and people usually don’t notice it until their vision becomes blurry. Wet AMD falls into two categories:
- Occult: The occult form of wet macular degeneration typically produces less severe vision loss due to the leakage of blood and fluid that’s less evident.
- Classic: This is a more serious wet macular degeneration form, where the blood vessel growth is more evident – that said, it usually produces more severe vision loss.
Macular degeneration is, in rare cases, diagnosed in children and teenagers. The most common form is called Stargardt disease, it usually affects both eyes, and it develops between the ages of six and twenty. Kids and teenagers who deal with this eye disease often notice difficulties while reading or adapting to bright light.
It comes as a result of a recessive gene called ABCA4 – it’s a part of genetic coding that impacts the body to produce a protein that blocks regular transportation of food and waste to the photoreceptor cells found in the retina.
The treatment of this macular degeneration form usually includes the use of intraocular injections, which can delay the progression of the disease. Still, proper nutrition and eye protection can also impact the treatment, which is why their implementation is recommended.
What are Macular Degeneration Symptoms?
Symptoms and signs of macular degeneration usually develop gradually, asymptomatically, and without pain. Although it typically affects both eyes, it can be present on only one – in that case, your healthy eye may compensate for the weak eye, which is why you may be unable to notice any changes. Some of the most common symptoms of macular degeneration are:
- Visual distortions: Such distortions usually appear in the form of metamorphopsia, in which a grid of straight lines appears wavy, and some parts of the grid may appear blank. People primarily notice it when looking at, for example, telephone poles while driving.
- Slow recovery after a photostress test: The photostress test is a clinical technique that helps differentiate between macular and optic nerve disease. Patients with the macular problem may have recovery times lasting 5 to 3 minutes, or even longer, while the recovery of people with normal macular function should last 50 to 60 seconds.
- Decreased visual acuity: If you notice that your visual acuity is drastically decreasing, for example, from 20/20 to 20/80, you should visit your ophthalmologist and do further examinations.
- The need for brighter light: Patients with AMD usually seek a brighter environment when reading or doing any close work.
- Difficulty adapting to low light: In addition to the previous note, patients also face the challenge of adapting to low light – for instance, when entering a dimly lit room.
- Blurred vision: Vision usually becomes blurry when reading printed words, and it can also be a sign of a central vision loss.
- The trouble with discerning colors: Most patients have this symptom, and they claim that they find it difficult to distinguish dark colors from the dark ones, as well as the bright ones from the bright ones. This is also related to the loss in contrast sensitivity, which is a common problem among AMD patients.
- Difficulty recognizing faces: This problem is usually manifested through the black stain that people with macular degeneration see when looking at someone.
Overall, you should know that macular degeneration won’t lead to total blindness itself – your peripheral vision will remain, which means that you can still perform some everyday activities you’d normally do, except for reading and driving.
What Causes Macular Degeneration?
The particular factors that cause AMD disease are not completely known, but we can say that such factors are quite complex, and they include heredity, environment, and lifestyle, which is not the case with Stargardt disease, which has a specific genetic cause.
The biggest risk factor for macular degeneration is age, but some other causes can lead to this particular eye disease:
Environment and Lifestyle
When it comes to your environment and lifestyle, the following bad habits can increase the chance of AMD:
- Smoking tobacco: Cigarette smoking has toxic effects on the retina, which is why it’s considered that people who smoke are more prone to AMD than those who don’t.
- Hypertension: Hypertension or high blood pressure are associated with the risk of AMD disease.
- High cholesterol: High cholesterol can also cause the appearance of AMD, which is why it’s essential to check it regularly.
- Obesity and inactivity: Patients who’re dealing with obesity are more prone to AMD than people of healthy body weight. Also, those who exercise at least three times a week can reduce the risk of macular disease.
- Excessive fat intake: Consumption of high amounts of fats, including saturated fats, trans fats, and omega-6 fatty acids, increases the risk of macular degeneration.
- Drug side-effects: In some cases, macular degeneration comes as a result of the side-effects of toxic and antipsychotic drugs.
Another factor that can impact the development of AMD is genetics. If someone in your family has or had this problem, that means that you’re more likely to have it than someone who doesn’t have genetic predispositions.
Besides, there are specific gene variants that are “responsible” for AMD development, but, as mentioned before, there is no absolute way to get to know what the main cause of the disease is.
Other Risk Factors
There are some other macular degeneration causes that used to be considered as vital for development of this particular eye disease – still, they are not as “strong” as the ones above-mentioned.
- Race: It’s considered that Caucasians (White people) are more likely to develop AMD than Afro-Americans or Hispanic people.
- Lighter eye color: Regarding the previous factor, this one is also based on the fact that people with lighter skin and eye color are more prone to macular degeneration since darker eyes contain an extra pigment that protects them from sun exposure. Light-colored eyes can be more sensitive to the light in general, but that doesn’t mean they can cause AMD.
- Excessive exposure to UV light: Again, exposure to UV light from the sun or LEDs may be weakly associated with AMD development. They can only slightly increase the risk, but this factor is not as considerable as smoking or hypertension, for example.
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Is There a Treatment for Macular Degeneration?
Nowadays, there is a wide range of possibilities for macular degeneration treatment.
Such treatments can significantly reduce the development of this particular eye disease, especially if the condition is in its very early stages. That way, it’s even possible to restore the sight more or less completely, but not back to 100%.
Here are some of the most common macular degeneration treatments that have shown some excellent results in reducing blindness:
Orthodox Medical Treatment
Some researches that have been done in the last ten years have proven that new drugs, primarily made for reducing the proliferation of arteries in cancers, are also useful for reducing such arteries found in the macula in the wet type of macular degeneration.
It involves injection directly into the eye, which means that it’s not a very pleasant treatment – however, it often provides significant improvements, and potential side effects, such as pain in the eye from the injection, are infrequent and short-termed.
Most importantly, this treatment is not suitable for dry macular degeneration nor younger patients.
Acupuncture for Macular Degeneration
Acupuncture for macular degeneration has shown its effectiveness in treating many kinds of diseases, and this discipline’s popularity keeps increasing day by day. When it comes to macular degeneration, acupuncture can help in two ways:
- It brings energy to the affected eyes: Acupuncture is especially good at bringing energy to the eyes since it can stimulate the nerve and promote neuro-modulation. Using points close to the eyes can have a tremendous effect on local energy, which means that a healing process sometimes starts after only a few treatments.
- Helps to improve the overall body condition: Acupuncture stimulates blood flow in various parts of the body, which can be extremely beneficial for eye health as well.
A specific type of acupuncture that’s wholly dedicated to treating eye problems is Micro Acupuncture 48. It’s based on stimulating 48 acupoints located only in the hands and feet, and it’s quite successful in treating macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, retinitis pigmentosa, as well as other severe eye problems.
Micro Electro Stimulation (Microcurrent Stimulation)
In addition to the “regular” acupuncture treatment, there are other styles that can be performed for improving the sight issues caused by macular degeneration, and one of them is micro electro-stimulation that awakes dormant cells, which appeared damaged.
Electroacupuncture is useful for treating different types of pain, as well as stroke, neurological, and psychosomatic conditions, but it has shown excellent results in treating both acute and degenerative eye conditions. This treatment impacts blood flow stimulates tissue repair and regeneration, which is essential for this particular eye disease.
Some sessions include insertion of needles into the hairline, scalp, ears, and orbs – the needles are connected to electrodes, and they’re stimulated with electric current for about 30 minutes.
Herbal medicine, which includes the use of Chinese herbs, has a long tradition of use in treating eye problems.
Like acupuncture, the implementation of Chinese herbs helps in two ways – it strengthens the entire body, and it focuses on strengthening the eyes. It’s essential to find a certified provider who’ll craft customized herbal formulas that’ll have a positive effect on your eye problem.
Macular Degeneration Cure – Final Thoughts
Every disease can be curable if you start your treatment on time. That said, you can restore the majority of the sight you had two years ago, but it’s essential to start treatments while the disease is still in its early stages.
That doesn’t mean that advanced stages can’t be handled, but the treatments will give fewer results.
Overall, you should know that your general health can have a significant impact on AMD development, and it’s important to eat healthily, exercise regularly, give up bad habits, and have eye exams on time.
That way, the results of micro acupuncture for macular degeneration and any other treatments will last longer, and they will be much faster and better.
11 Tips on Macular Degeneration Prevention
Even if you have genetic predispositions to AMD disease, or if you’re prone to it due to some other factors, you’re advised to follow some of the tips below – that way, you can reduce the risk of getting macular degeneration, and you can improve your overall health.
- Stop or reduce smoking: Smoking is one of the most common macular degeneration causes, and it’s recommended to stop it, or at least reduce it.
- Eat green vegetables: It’s essential to eat a lot of dark, leafy, and carotenoid-rich vegetables, especially raw spinach.
- Take food supplements: Including vitamins and minerals to your regular diet may significantly decrease the risk of AMD. Consult your nutritionist about the supplements that might be the best for you based on your particular health needs.
- Take AREDS1: AREDS1 is one of the best vitamins for macular degeneration that contains vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, zinc, and copper. It’s considered efficient in reducing the risk of many eye problems, including cataracts.
- Eat fish: Fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for maintaining eye health. Besides, some studies have shown that eating fish regularly can help macular degeneration prevention.
- Exercise regularly: It’s vital to be active and to exercise regularly – walk at least two miles a day and try to practice sport at least three times a week.
- Include fruits and nuts in your diet: People who eat fruits and nuts regularly are less prone to macular degeneration than those who don’t. They contain significant doses of vitamins, and they are essential for maintaining a healthy life.
- Reduce intake of refined carbs: Diets that are high in carbohydrates bring the risk of AMD since the food that’s rich in carbs has a high glycemic index, which causes high blood sugar and insulin release. That said, replace carbs with fruits, vegetables, brown rice, multi-grain bread.
- Control blood pressure and cholesterol: Cholesterol can build up your blood vessels and inhibit blood flow, which are two necessary components for maintaining the health of eye tissue. High blood pressure has a negative impact on your overall health, which is why it’s essential to control it regularly to prevent the development of AMD.
- Wear sunglasses with protection: Even though there is no conclusive evidence that AMD can be caused by overexposure to the sun, it’s always better to wear glasses with UV protection when you’re exposed to the sun.
- Go to regular eye exams: Make sure you do your eye exams at least two times a year – that way, you can prevent the development of severe problems that can arise, including macular degeneration, which is not a negligible issue.
When it comes to macular degeneration vitamins, make sure you avoid excessive amounts of vitamin A, especially if you have Stargardt disease. This vitamin is generally good for the eyes, but it’s not metabolized by cells in the eyes of people who deal with such a condition, and it can be quite toxic for them.
Makari Wellness – Safe and Efficient Treatment for Macular Degeneration
Makari Wellness is certified in Micro Acupuncture 48 for eyes, which is a treatment that’s specifically aimed at treating degenerative eye conditions. Combined with nutritional supplementation, herbal medicine, and other therapies, our approach to Acupuncture Ophthalmology gives incredible results in improving and slowing any eye disease, including glaucoma, retinitis pigmentosa, Stargardt disease, macular degeneration, and many others.
Don’t wait until your vision becomes endangered, book your appointment at (888) 871-8889, and experience the most efficient therapies of acupuncture San Diego offers to all patients that deal with severe eye diseases.