Managing Age-Related Macular Degeneration

The aging process comes with a number of health problems. Among the parts of the body, the eyes are among the most commonly affected, with people being at a higher risk of developing high-risk eye conditions as they grow older. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is one such eye condition, and early detection can be key to addressing it properly.

What is AMD?

Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness among individuals 50 years old and up. Over time, the macula, the most sensitive part of the retina, can get damaged, leading to blurred vision that may gradually worsen to total blindness. Although age is the leading risk factor, vices and unhealthy habits, such as smoking and unbalanced diet, can complicate the problem. Caucasians and people with family members with the condition are also at a greater risk.

How do you manage AMD?

To make the story short, there is no cure for AMD at the moment. There are, however, steps to slow down the condition’s progress:

1. Diagnose the condition. A blurred spot is the first and most pronounced symptom of AMD, although the onset of a definite warning sign could mean that the condition is advanced enough already. When it does begin, AMD has no symptoms and may be detected only through tests and regular eye examinations with your doctor. The condition’s progress may vary in speed—dry type (atrophic) AMD is slower than wet type (neovascular) AMD, although you may develop one type in one eye and a different type in the other.

2. Get treated. Your doctor will prescribe treatment depending on how advanced your AMD is, so it is important to have it diagnosed and examined properly.

  • Early AMD. Once the condition is diagnosed in its early stages, your doctor may suggest abandoning unhealthy habits and start eating nutritious foods and exercising. These won’t stop AMD, but they will slow it down. Regular eye exams will also help determine how fast the condition is progressing.
  • Intermediate and Late AMD. The National Eye Institute (NEI) tested how nutritional supplements can affect the development of AMD in its Age-Related Eye Disease Studies (AREDS and AREDS2). What the research found was that taking high doses of certain nutrients may slow down intermediate and late stage AMD by around 25%. The dosage is as follows:
    • 500 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C
    • 400 international units of vitamin E
    • 80 mg zinc as zinc oxide (25 mg in AREDS2)
    • 2 mg copper as cupric oxide
    • 15 mg beta-carotene, OR 10 mg lutein and 2 mg zeaxanthin

You may find multivitamins formulated after the AREDS and AREDS2 results, although you may also supplement these by consuming foods rich in these nutrients.

  • Advanced neovascular AMD. This stage involves the growth of abnormal blood vessels in the eyes, resulting to severe vision loss. According to WebMD, some of the treatment methods used for this stage are:
    • Injections. Your doctor can inject anti-angiogenic drugs into your eye. This stops the formation of new blood vessels and prevents abnormal ones from leaking.
    • Photodynamic therapy. This approach uses a light-sensitive drug to damage the abnormal blood vessels. This treatment is usually accomplished in two steps.
    • Laser therapy. This uses high-energy lasers to burn away the abnormal blood vessels growing in your eye.

AMD is a complex condition, made even more severe by the lack of any definite treatment method. It can, however, be managed with early diagnosis—which means regular eye exams are a must—and living a healthy lifestyle.

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