Tackling age related macular degeneration

It's never too late to heed your mother's advice to eat your collards.

According to a multi-center study conducted several years ago, vitamin supplements high in antioxidants slowed the progression of macular degeneration. Other studies also indicate that these vitamins may prevent or delay the onset of macular degeneration.

Macular degeneration is an eye disorder that damages the center of the retina, which is called the macula. This makes it difficult to see fine details.

In the worst cases, abnormal blood vessels form in the choroid below, break through the retinal pigmented layer, and leak fluid underneath the photoreceptors. This is called wet macular degeneration. When only plaques are present it is called dry macular degeneration.

Dry macular degeneration can persist for years without progressing to wet macular degeneration. Some, however, will progress to the wet type and usually carries a worse prognosis.

So what can you do to prevent macular degeneration? Confucius once said, "Don’t cry over what you cannot control, and don’t swerve from what you can control." You can't control your genetic history with macular degeneration or your age, two risk factors. However, you can control: diet, exercise, smoking and blood pressure.  A healthy diet rich in vegetables high in antioxidants may decrease the likelihood of developing macular degeneration. What is good for the heart is good for the eye. If you must misbehave, do it in moderation.  

So you have macular degeneration, what do you do now? Presently, the only treatment for dry macular degeneration is vitamin supplements. There are several commercial preparations available that are high in antioxidants and recommended for dry macular degeneration. The American Academy of Ophthalmology also recommends eye exams with dilation every six months to check for progression to wet macular degeneration. Progression to wet macular degeneration declares itself by worsening vision and distortion of central vision. Treatment involves a series of intra-ocular injections to eliminate abnormal vessels in the retina and thus decrease retinal swelling. If caught early, these treatments can dramatically improve the long term prognosis.

The recipe for long life and good vision: Listen to your mother and see you ophthalmologist often.

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