Macular degeneration is the breaking down of the small central portion of the retina. It is the leading cause of severe vision loss in people over age 60 and is often referred to as age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The retina is the light-sensing nerve tissue at the back of the eye. AMD can cause serious visual disturbance. There are two main types of age-related macular degeneration:
- Dry form. One of the most common early signs of ‘dry’ macular degeneration is the presence of drusen - tiny yellow deposits under the retina, these can be detected during a routine eye exam. These deposits are comprised of waste proteins and lipids (oily material) that begin to accumulate due to poor circulation and waste-flushing in the eye. This occurs with poor antioxidant intake. Antioxidants are imperative for the normal waste-clearing process. As these drusen increase in number and size, dimming or distortion of vision when reading, inability to see road signs or recognize peoples’ faces may occur, becoming progressively worse. In the advanced stages, patients lose central vision.
- Wet form. The "wet" form of macular degeneration is characterized by the growth of abnormal blood vessels underneath the macula. These blood vessels leak blood and fluid into the retina, causing straight lines to look wavy, as well as blind spots and loss of central vision. These abnormal blood vessels eventually scar, leading to permanent loss of central vision.
Symptoms of Macular Degeneration
- Straight lines look distorted or wavy.
- Shapes look blurred, fuzzy, or hazy
- Colours appear less vivid
- Words are blurry and difficult to read
- Blank or dark areas at central vision point
- Central vision point looks foggy or cloudy
Causes of Macular Degeneration
- Heredity is a risk factor.
- Free radicals can damage the eyes.
- Smoking, chronic fatigue and a weak immune system speed free radical damage.
- Poor digestion and nutritional deficiencies - people with ARMD are often deficient in a number of nutrients that are essential to eye health.
- Systemic inflammation, indicated by high levels of c-reactive protein has been tied to increased macular degeneration risk.
- Lutein and other carotenoids: lutein is concentrated in the macular, consequently, many researchers believe it may be a potent protectant against macular degeneration
- A single solid study suggests that zinc, or a mixture of zinc and antioxidants can prevent or slow the progression of early macular degeneration.
- Evidence suggests that bilberry rich in flavonoids, may prevent or treat macular degeneration
- Grape seed extract exerts a protective effect against macular degeneration.