Approximately two-thirds of the population have eye or vision problems. Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision impairment in people aged over 40 years. Common symptoms include distorted vision, dark spaces blocking the central field of vision, reduced colour vision, and visual hallucinations. Due to the complexity of treatment, many people are looking towards Complementary and Alternative Medicine treatments for preventative healthcare solutions. This blog discusses holistic healthcare treatment and the available nutritional supplements that are said to assist the symptoms of AMD.
Types of Macular Degeneration
There are two forms of Macular degeneration:
- Dry Macular Degeneration
This is the most common type of macular degeneration where the retinal pigment epithelium and the retinal cells die, leading to patches of ‘missing’ retina. This is a slower form of the disease and results in gradual loss of vision.
- Wet Macular Degeneration
This occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow behind the macula as retinal pigmented epithelium (RPE) and photoreceptor cells die. Wet macular degeneration is not a common as the dry form (10%) but it results in 90 percent of the cases of legal blindness. Therefore, this urgency requires treatment. The main treatments options for wet AMD are:
- Anti-VEGF medication– prevents the growth of new blood vessels in the eye. Examples include Lucentis, Avastin, and Eylea. These reduce the level of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) which stimulates abnormal blood vessel growth in the retina and macula. These drugs are administered by injection directly into the eye after the surface has been numbed.
- Laser surgery– to destroy abnormal blood vessels in the eye.
If you suspect that you have macular degeneration or any issues with your eyesight you should see your doctor or optician immediately.
Preventive care for Macular Degeneration
It is important to recognise that a holistic healthcare treatment can be used as preventative measures for age-related macular degeneration. However, it is important to note that following the generic advice from some natural medicine companies in relation to nutritional supplements should be treated with caution. The best advice is to use holistic healthcare treatment as advised by the National Institutes of Health in the US who advocate “AREDS2 Formula’ of nutritional supplements for the reduction in the progression of dry AMD by 25%. The AREDS2 Formula is as follows:
- Vitamin C – 500 mg
- Vitamin E – 400 IU
- Lutein – 10 mg
- Zeaxanthin – 2 mg
- Zinc oxide – 80 mg
- Copper (as cupric oxide) – 2 mg (to prevent copper deficiency, which may be associated with taking high amounts of zinc)
Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids These carotenoids are present in the eye macula which block blue light from reaching the underlying structures in the retina, thereby reducing the generation of free radicals that result in light-induced oxidative damage which can lead to macular degeneration (AMD). There are several Complementary and Alternative Medicine research studies have found that lutein and zeaxanthin either help prevent AMD or may slow progression of the disease
Vitamins C. Vitamin E and Zinc are nutritional supplements that are antioxidants. Zinc is also a cofactor for over 500 biochemical reactions in the body and is present in high concentrations in the retina and choroid. Both zinc and copper are required for photo transduction i.e. conversion of light into electrical signals.
Other nutritional meds that may be prescribed by your Complementary and Alternative Medicine practitioner includes folic acid, vitamins B6 and B12. A 2009 Complementary and Alternative Medicine research study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School revealed that a vitamin cocktail of B6, B12, and folic acid reduced the risk of female participants’ developing AMD by 34 percent.
It is very important to remember that vitamin supplements are not a cure for macular degeneration, but they can be important in preventing the onset of wet AMD. Apple A Day RX advocates ‘food as medicine’ as part of holistic healthcare treatment, so a healthy diet of foods high in Vitamins A,C, and E such as oranges, leafy green vegetables, carrots, tomatoes should be part of your daily diet. Lutein and zeaxanthin, two nutrients found in eggs, spinach, and other leafy green vegetables.
As we get older, we can do a lot to maintain good eye heath through having a healthy diet, appropriate nutritional supplementation, abstain from smoking which is a high-risk factor and avoidance of computer vision syndrome or digital eye strain(prolonged computer, tablet, e-reader and cell phone/smartphone use).
So look after your eyes and remember PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE!