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Dealing with Age-Related Macular Degeneration 101 – (Part Two)

AMD sufferers will likely encourage family members to get their eyes checked more frequently to ensure early detection

When it comes to advanced macular degeneration, there aren’t many positive things to say. It’s a sad subject with more questions than answers. I can usually think of something positive to write about most other eye health topics, but not this one. The best way to deal with AMD is to avoid it altogether.

When AMD reaches an advanced stage, it not only affects the individual patient, but family members as well (due to loss of independence). Advanced AMD sufferers need to be supported (by family members) and introduced to low-vision aides (such as handheld magnifiers) as soon as possible.

Furthermore, patients who suffer from AMD come to understand the disease is hereditary and can be passed down to their children and grandchildren. Therefore, one positive outcome of AMD is the fact that sufferers will likely encourage family members to get their eyes checked more frequently to ensure early detection (if possible).

For an AMD sufferer, knowing he/she may be able to save loved ones from debilitating vision loss is very important in coping with blindness. As far as future generations are concerned, it’s important to understand that we can’t change our genes, but we can alter our environment in hopes of preventing or lessening diseases we may be predisposed to.

Diagnosis:

Once a person reaches the age of 50, he/she should get an eye exam at least once per year, especially if there’s a family history of AMD or other eye diseases. If macular degeneration starts to rear it’s ugly head, it’ll typically be diagnosed during a dilated eye exam.

In the early stages of AMD, a patient may not have any symptoms at all. As the disease worsens, blurry vision is usually the main symptom.

If severe AMD is the end result, a patient may lose central vision, which makes it difficult to accomplish some of the things we’d typically take for granted like watching television, reading or driving.

Treatment Options

Currently, there are different approaches for the treatment of dry and wet AMD. Dry AMD is typically treated with nutritional supplements, which have shown the most promise in preventing moderate AMD from progressing to severe or wet AMD.

In the large clinical studies known as AREDS 1 and AREDS 2, it was found that patients with poor dietary habits gained the most from supplementation, which includes high doses of vitamin C, E, zinc, lutein and zeaxanthin.

When it comes to wet AMD, the standard of care is intra-vitreal/anti-VEGF medications. These amazing medications are injected into the eye to stop the production of new blood vessels, which could break and leak fluid/blood into the eye.

If blood or fluid leaks into the eye, it becomes toxic to the retina, which can lead to scarring if left untreated. Unfortunately, there’s no way to fix retinal scars (as of right now).

The best approach to treating wet AMD is to receive the intra-vitreal/anti-VEGF medication as soon as the eye converts from dry AMD to wet AMD. These injections can be performed by a retina specialist. If necessary, your regular eye doctor will refer you to the correct specialist in your area.

Once started on the injections, they’ll need to be repeated anywhere from every six weeks to every three months (or until the bleeding stops). After that, the eye is watched very closely to ensure new bleeding doesn’t occur.

As of right now, there is no cure for any form of AMD, but early detection and proper treatment is our best weapon against long-term vision loss.

Prevention Tips

  • Get Regular Eye Exams
  • Stop Smoking
  • Start a Weight Loss Program
  • Control Hypertension
  • Make Necessary Dietary Changes
  • Exercise Regularly
  • Wear UV Protection
  • Block Blue Light

Live in Your OcularPrime:

If AMD runs in your family, make sure to get regular dilated eye exams. If you smoke, it’s time to think about quitting (ASAP). As it turns out, smoking is one of the highest risk factors associated with AMD. Obesity is also strongly linked to AMD. That said, it may be time to consider a stronger fitness routine.

Proper diet is also extremely important to the prevention of AMD. Try to incorporate more healthy fruits and vegetables. Ideally, one cup of raw leafy greens or two cups of cooked leafy greens every day. These include: spinach, kale, swiss chard, broccoli and brussel sprouts.

Try to eat as many colors as possible when it comes to vegetables. Orange veggies like carrots, bell peppers, sweet potatoes and butternut squash are very healthy for the eyes. Increase omega-3 rich foods like wild caught salmon, sardines, walnuts, flax seeds and chia seeds.

It’s also a good bet to decrease foods that are high in sugar. Better yet, significantly decrease foods that are high in sugar. And try to avoid processed foods altogether.

Other preventative measures such as UV protection and blue light protection are steps in the right direction. In fact, UV protection should be worn at all times. Even on a cloudy day your eyes can be damaged from UV exposure. As far as blue light goes, we still don’t have conclusive evidence that blue light exposure can cause AMD, but it’s getting easier to filter it out with glasses and programs like F.lux and Night Shift.