With macular degeneration, prevention and early detection are of vital importance. That is because treatment options are limited and often involve experimental techniques. The trusted ophthalmologists of Mack Eye Center recommend regular eye exams to help identify the disease early and minimize potential damage. In addition, restructuring your diet to emphasize eye-healthy foods can reduce the risk of developing macular degeneration.
Causes and Effects
The macula is the part of the retina that focuses images before they are transmitted along the optic nerve to the brain. When this region of the eye begins to deteriorate, a person may notice a sudden change in vision, including fuzziness, distortions, blind spots, blurring, reduced contrast and difficulty reading. A sufferer may struggle to recognize fine details, colors and even faces.
Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness for Americans 65 and older. As an age-related disease, it develops slowly, often as a result of years of poor nutritional or lifestyle choices. Obese and sedentary individuals are more likely to develop macular degeneration, as are persons with untreated high blood pressure. Smoking is a major risk factor. That said, your DNA is also a key variable in determining whether you will develop the condition.
Vitamins and Minerals
Omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and zinc are believed to offer some benefits in slowing the progression of macular degeneration, and even protecting against it. Leafy greens, fruits and vegetables high in beta carotene, and anything that is a good source of lutein and zeaxanthin, should also be consumed regularly.
Vitamin A, B vitamins, iron and thiamine are all important to maintaining overall eye health as well. Non-starchy plant foods are ideal sources of vitamin B. This eye-healthy vitamin can also be found in whole grains, eggs, dairy products, meat, nuts, seeds and legumes. Ask your ophthalmologist about vitamin supplements to magnify the impact of nutritional treatment.
Although a subset of cases classified as “wet” macular degeneration accounts for just 10 to 15 percent of the total, research into treatment options for this variant has been promising in recent years. Wet macular degeneration can happen quickly, with rapid loss of vision. Abnormal blood vessels begin to grow under the retina and macula. Soon these small vessels bleed into surrounding structures, distorting the shape of the macula. The leakage can scar the retina and decimate the rods and cones that make eyesight possible.
VEGF injections are a relatively new treatment for wet macular degeneration. A chemical periodically injected directly into the eye works to suppress the growth of these rogue blood vessels. Another promising treatment, laser photocoagulation, is in an early experimental stage. With this technique, the targeted energy of a surgical laser seals off the problematic blood vessels.
If you would like to learn more about macular degeneration, schedule an appointment today at Mack Eye Center, conveniently located in Hoffman Estates.