Macular Degeneration

What Is Macular Degeneration

Macular Degeneration, which affects more than 10 million Americans, is the leading cause of vision loss.  This number exceeds the amount of people who lose their vision because of cataracts or glaucoma.  Macular Degeneration is considered to be an incurable eye disease, and it is a painless condition that is causes by the deterioration of the central portion of the retina, which is light-sensitive tissue located in the back of the eye.  Many people experience Macular Degeneration, but Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the most common form of the condition.  Vision natural declines with age, but AMD slowly destroys the sharp central vision that is needed for carrying out daily tasks like driving.  It advances slowly and takes time for people to notice loss of vision.

Signs Of Macular Degeneration

In order to understand whether you have Macular Degeneration, you have to understand the symptoms; however, AMD is commonly detected in an eye exam, long before symptoms become noticeable.  If you don't catch the condition before symptoms start, here are common symptoms to look out for:

  • Dark or blurry areas of vision
  • A "whiteout" (that appears in the center of your vision)
  • Fuzzy vision
  • Straight lines, like sentences on a page, appear wavy
  • Difficulty reading in low light
  • Extra sensitivity to glare
What Causes Macular Degeneration

There are multiple factors, all of which are not fully understood, that seem to play a role in the development of Macular Degeneration.  This understanding comes from a lack of funding for Macular Degeneration research.  What is known at this point in time is that the causes of AMD are complex, including both environmental and hereditary influences.  Scientists are researching why the cells in the macular begin to deteriorate and what can be done to correct this degeneration.  The risk factors are as follows:

  • Genetics (people with a family history of Macular Degeneration are at greater risk)
  • Race (Caucasians are more likely to develop the disease than African-Americans or Hispanics/Latinos)
  • Smoking (smoking cigarettes doubles the risk of Macular Degeneration)

Dherbs Approach...adjusting your diet is always key!

Natural Remedies
  • Since smoking cigarettes increases your risk of developing the condition, it is advisable to quit smoking.  The damaging chemicals in cigarettes have been known to increase inflammation and damage healthy tissues and cells, causing vision loss and nerve damage.  Avoiding cigarettes may be one of the best things you can do to protect your eyes.
  • Research has shown that antioxidants can help slow the progression of Macular Degeneration.  Oxidative stress plays a role in the degeneration of cells and nerves in the retina.  Foods that are rich in antioxidants, especially carotenoids, help to fight oxidative stress and supply the eyes with nutrients for optimal vision.  It is recommended to "eat the rainbow," meaning people should eat brightly colored fruits and vegetables like squash, carrots, peppers, berries, leafy greens, and citrus fruits.  Vitamins A, C, & E are very beneficial for keeping eyes healthy. 
  • In the same way that antioxidants help to protect the eyes, supplements can too.  An AMD study found that vitamin C & E taken with zinc omega-3s can slow the progression of AMD.  Other supplements that help support eye health include bilberry, zeaxanthin, astaxanthin, and omega-3s. 
  • In addition to consuming antioxidants and anti-inflammatory foods, it is also important to maintain a healthy weight by engaging in regular exercise, especially as you get older.  Not only does regular cardiovascular exercise assist with weight management, but it also helps maintain mobility, normalize blood pressure levels, and provide anti-inflammatory benefits. 
  • Soaking up natural sunlight has some amazing benefits, like absorbing natural vitamin D, but too much time in the sun can damage the eyes.  If you aren't wearing polarized sunglasses or hats to protect the eyes, they can become over-exposed to ultraviolet rays.  Do not ever stare at the sun!  In addition to protecting your eyes from sunlight, you also need to protect them from blue light exposure.  Try to limit the amount of time you spend on an electronic device to 20 minutes at a time to reduce eye strain, especially closer to bed time.
  • One alternative strategy to improve Macular Degeneration is microcurrent stimulation.  This practice involves adhering patches around the eyes and sends mild electrical currents throughout the area.  This approach is commonly used for muscle recovery, but sending electrical currents around the eyes helps to remove waste from the retina.  More research needs to be conducted on this alternative therapy for concrete results. 
Things you should eat
  • Citrus fruits (lemons, oranges, grapefruit, limes)
  • Dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, chard, collards)
  • Carrots
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Butternut squash
  • Berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries)
  • Manuka honey
  • Bell peppers
  • Turmeric
  • Papaya
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