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6 Natural Treatments for Macular Degeneration Symptoms

What Is Macular Degeneration?

Macular degeneration is an eye disorder that affects cells in the part of the eye called the retina, thereby causing changes in vision. In those with macular degeneration, images that usually appear clear and sharp often become blurred at first, and then as the disease progresses they can become distorted, enlarged, cloudy, dark or spotted.

The retina is the lining of nerves located at the back of the eyes that responds to detection of light. Nerves and cells that make up the retina help us interpret light from the environment by reflecting light wavelengths and turning them into sharp, focused images. The specific area of the retina that’s damaged due to macular degeneration is called the macula, located at the center of the retina and responsible for forming “central vision,” or the images you see when looking straight ahead.

Because people over 60 years old tend to have this eye disorder most often, macular degeneration is commonly referred to as age-related macular degeneration (AMD). There are two primary types of macular degeneration: wet and dry. The dry form is much more common, accounting for about 90 percent of all cases of macular degeneration. Dry macular degeneration proceeds the wet type, which is more severe and leads to worsened vision loss.

Understanding age-related macular degeneration:

When the diseases progresses, it can become known as neovascular age-related macular degeneration, also called wet macular degeneration. Another type of advanced AMD is geographic atrophy, also sometimes called late-dry macular degeneration.
When someone has dry macular degeneration, metabolic deposits (or end-products) collect under the retina and contribute to scarring and vision changes. This is the more common type of macular degeneration in which the light-sensitive cells of the macula slowly break down over time.
Wet macular degeneration causes leaky blood vessels to grow abnormally into the retina, causing swelling and bleeding in the affected eye. This can cause either sudden loss of vision or a slow progression of macular degeneration symptoms depending on the patient. Although wet AMC is much less common, accounting for only about 10 percent of all AMD cases, the wet type is usually more serious and accountable for about 90 percent of all cases of legal blindness due to AMD.

Macular Degeneration Symptoms and Signs

Each patient responds differently to having macular degeneration. Some experience less severe macular degeneration symptoms and slowed loss of vision compared to others. It’s possible to retain close to normal vision for years even while having macular degeneration, however the disease is considered progressive, degenerative and usually gets worse with time.

Although it’s possible to have macular degeneration in both eyes, it’s also common for only one eye to be affected. When only one retina becomes damaged, the other might start to compensate for the loss in vision. When this is the case, it can be hard to tell that macular degeneration is developing until it progresses.

Macular degeneration symptoms can include:

Blurred central vision, meaning usually blurriness appears in the center of one’s view when looking straight ahead.
Over time the area that appears blurred can become larger or some spots might even appear blank.
Straight lines becoming curved or distorted. Some experience colors becoming darker or less bright and vivid.
Trouble with everyday activities like reading, making out faces, writing, typing or driving.
In some cases of advanced macular degeneration, vision can be completely lost over time and permanent blindness can occur.

6 Natural Treatments for Macular Degeneration Symptoms

Macular Degeneration Symptoms Causes and Risk Factors

Macular degeneration forms due to inflammation and damage of interrelated tissues, nerves and cells in the eyes. These include change to the photoreceptors, retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), Bruch’s membranes and choriocapillaries (small blood vessels). The most important change to the eyes leading to vision changes is those involving the retina/macula cells. Doctors usually look for changes in retina (RPE) cell functions as an early and crucial marker that macular degeneration is developing.

Experts state that although there’s more to learn about exactly how and why macular degeneration develops, its pathogenesis is multifactorial, involving “a complex interaction of metabolic, functional, genetic and environmental factors.” Both genetics and non-genetic (environmental or lifestyle) factors play major roles in the development of AMD, which means that just because you might have a family history, it doesn’t mean you’re helpless in protecting your vision. A 2012 report published in the Lancet states that the major risk factors for developing macular degeneration include:

Being over the age of 60. The risk of getting advanced age-related macular degeneration increases from 2 percent for those between the ages of 50–59 to about 30 percent for those over the age of 75.
Cigarette smoking
Suffering from nutritional deficiencies due to a poor diet or absorption/digestive problems. A highly processed diet contributes to accelerated aging and low antioxidant intake.
Cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, including markers like high blood pressure and fluctuating blood sugar levels
Genetic factors or having a family history of vision loss
Markers of high levels of inflammation and oxidative damage, which causes changes in lipid, angiogenic and extracellular matrix pathways
UV light damage from too much sunlight exposure.

6 Natural Treatments for Macular Degeneration Symptoms

1. Consume a High-Antioxidant Diet

It’s been found that consuming dietary antioxidants, in addition to increasing levels through supplementation, can help slow down progression of macular degeneration. That’s because “oxidative injury” to the eyes (also called free radical damage or oxidative stress) plays a significant role in degeneration of cells and nerves in the retina/macula.

Anti-inflammatory foods that help prevent or manage symptoms of macular degeneration include:

Foods high in antioxidants (especially carotenoids) — Sources include brightly colored orange and yellow vegetables like squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, peppers, berries and citrus fruits. Dark leafy greens like spinach, kale or collards also supply important nutrients. Among berries, blueberries and cherries are especially beneficial since they’re considered super fruits due to supplying anthocyanin. Follow the advice to “eat the rainbow” since colored plant foods are critical sources of vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin E that have been found to keep eyes healthy.
Fresh fruit and vegetable juices — Homemade, unprocessed juices, such as carrot juice or green juice, can provide a high dose of essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that have many anti-aging effects.
Water — Drinking enough plain water, in addition to staying hydrated by consuming things like herbal tea and coconut water, helps keep eyes hydrated and helps them flush out any debris.
High-fiber foods — To keep toxins out of the body, help with gut health and nutrient absorption, and maintain a healthy weight, it’s critical to eat at least 25 grams of dietary fiber daily. High-fiber foods include soaked beans or legumes, veggies and fruit, nuts, seeds, and sprouted/soaked grains.

Foods to avoid that can contribute to macular degeneration include:

Foods that cause inflammation — These include processed/packaged foods made with trans fats, hydrogenated fats, processed meat products, refined grains and added sugar.
Too much caffeine and alcohol — Too much caffeine and alcohol can reduce blood flow to the eyes, contribute to toxicity that can lead to eye problems and cause dehydration, which drys the eyes.
Added sugar in sweetened drinks — Too much sugar speeds the aging process and causes cellular oxidation.

2. Supplement to Protect the Eyes

Similarly to how antioxidants from your die help protect the eyes, supplements can too. The Age-Related Eye Disease Study established that a supplemental combination of antioxidants, including vitamin C and E, taken with zinc and omega-3s can slow progression of AMD.

3. Quit Smoking

Smoking cigarettes has been found to be one of the most damaging habits someone can have due to its rapid age-accelerating effects. Cigarettes contain dozens of toxic chemicals that have been shown to raise inflammation levels, damage healthy tissue and cells, and contribute to nerve damage and vision loss. (8) Avoiding smoking is one of the most beneficial things you can do to protect your vision — and it’s even better that you don’t start to begin with!

6 Natural Treatments for Macular Degeneration Symptoms

4. Exercise and Maintain a Healthy Weight

In addition to reducing inflammation with a healthy diet, exercising regularly even into older age is an important tool for longevity. Exercise might help you maintain a healthy weight, helps normalize blood sugar and blood pressure levels, has anti-inflammatory effects, and more.

5. Prevent or Treat Markers of Cardiovascular Disease/Metabolic Syndrome

A history of cardiovascular disease and diabetes is one of the leading risk factors for eye disorders, including macular degeneration. Cardiovascular disease is usually a sign that inflammation levels are high and also sometimes that blood pressure levels are not within a normal range. A healthy diet, regular physical activity, drinking enough water, reducing stress and getting enough sleep are all beneficial for regulating blood pressure, normalizing blood sugar levels to prevent nerve damage and supporting heart health.

6. Protect the Eyes from Oxidative Damage Due to Light Exposure

Although sunlight in moderate amounts has its benefits (such as supplying us with immunoprotective vitamin D), too much can cause damage to the eyes. If you spend lots of time outdoors in direct sunlight, help protect your eyes from overexposure to UV rays by wearing sunglasses and a hat. Try not to stare directly into the sun, especially during peak times of day when the sun is strongest between about 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. If you work on the computer for hours every day or use electronic devices often, give your eyes a rest about every 20 minutes to lower eyestrain and consider avoiding blue-light devices close to bed time.
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