I am back from vacation and ready to Blog!
Regularly we are asked on our radio program Holistic Healthline and at our practice at the Tree of Life Wellness Center “What can I take for Macular Degeneration?” We then ask “ is it the dry or wet form.” Invariably the answer back is “I don’t know, the doctor didn’t tell me.”
It is VERY IMPORTANT to find out which it is, because some of the treatments are totally opposite. Particularly if you treat the wet form of macular degeneration as dry, you could make the condition worse. So STEP#1: ask your eye doctor which it is and never assume or guess!
It is also important to understand how this condition occurs. The macula is made up of millions of light-sensing cells that provide sharp, central vision. It is the most sensitive part of the retina, which is located at the back of the eye. The retina turns light into electrical signals and then sends these electrical signals through the optic nerve to the brain, where they are translated into the images we see. When the macula is damaged, the center of your field of view may appear blurry, distorted, or dark.
Dry macular degeneration is the more common form of Age Related Macular Degeneration. In the dry form of macular degeneration, toxic byproducts accumulate in the Bruch’s Membrane, forming yellow spots called drusen. The pigment layer can also erode, further limiting the body’s ability to clear toxic materials from the eye. A few small drusen may not cause changes in vision; however, as they grow in size and increase in number, they may lead to a dimming or distortion of vision that people find most noticeable when they read.
What increases your risk?
- People with decreased circulation are at the greatest risk, including, smokers - smoking increases the risk of AMD by 200-300%, diabetics, high blood pressure, and known cardiovascular disease.
- Poor digestion and nutritional deficiencies – People who have chronic upper digestive problems, particularly those taking acid inhibitors daily like tums, omeprazole, nexium, and prylosec are deficient in nutrients that are essential to eye health such as lutein, DHA essential fatty acids, zeaxanthin, taurine, antioxidants, zinc, bioflavonoids, selenium, and vitamin B-complex.
- Free radicals can damage the eyes. They are formed when the blue and ultraviolet sunlight passes through the crystalline lens of the eye. Other causes include: daily stress – emotional and physical, air pollutants, cigarettes, inflammation, radiation exposure, industrial chemicals, processed foods, drugs – recreational and prescription. Oxidation from free radicals causes destabilization of healthy macula cells in the eyes.
- Chronic inflammation, indicated in blood work by high levels of C-Reactive Protein (CRP & Cardio CRP) has been tied to increased macular degeneration risk
DRY FORM: Improving the circulation to the macular is important in the dry form, as well as decreasing free radical damage and inflammation.
- L-Arginine, Cayenne pepper, and Niacin help to open up the blood vessels and improve circulation.
- Best Natural Vision Enhancers (Doctor’s Best) which contains Taurine which enhances the rods and cones—the pigmented epithelial cells in the retina of the eye that serve as visual receptor cells. The greatest visual acuity occurs in the macular area of the retina near where the optic nerve enters from the back of the eye. 30% of the human retina is made of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) omega-3 fish oil and is a major component of the retina photo receptors. Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids that filter harmful high-energy blue wavelengths of light and act as antioxidants in the eye, helping protect and maintain healthy cells. Of the 600 carotenoids found in nature, only two are deposited in high quantities in the retina (macula) of the eye: lutein and zeaxanthin.
- NAC Detox Regulator (Doctor’s Best) A study published in the American Journal of Pathology May 2011 states, “Overall, NACA shows remarkable protection of Retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells and photoreceptors against oxidative cell damage and death, in vitro and in vivo. In conjunction with the considerable evidence supporting the role of oxidative stress in the pathogenesis of multiple significant blinding retinal disease processes, including Age related Macular Degeneration, and NACA's superior chemical properties and bioavailability, this compound may be a critical agent in the delay or prevention of retinal degenerative diseases.”
Although only about 10% of people with macular degeneration develop the wet form, it almost always develops in people who have had dry macular degeneration first and generally leads to severe vision loss.
Wet macular degeneration is when the cells of the macula stop working correctly and the body starts growing new blood vessels to fix the problem. Unfortunately, these blood vessels grow in the wrong place, and leak fluid or blood underneath the macula and eventually lead to scarring.
Capillary is the smallest type of blood vessel in the vascular system. Capillaries connect the smallest arteries with the smallest veins; most are so narrow that only one blood cell can pass along them at a time. The capillary wall is the conduit for material passing from an artery to a vein. The function of capillaries is to carry oxygen-rich blood to the tissues, to pass nutrients to tissue cells, and to carry away waste products.
Prolonged treatment with drugs such as aspirin and cortisone can result in capillary fragility.
An Australian study published in the February 2013 JAMA Internal Medicine shows, regular aspirin users (taking aspirin at least once a week for one year), are twice as more likely to develop the “wet” form of age-related macular degeneration compared to people who rarely or never take it.
WET FORM: It’s important to help strengthen the blood vessels and protect against capillary leakage
- Grape seed phytosome extract (Natural Factors) One important subgroup of polyphenols in grape seed are leucoanthocyanins or proanthocyanidins. These flavonoids help to strengthen blood vessels, increasing the tone and elasticity of capillary walls and help to quench free radicals.They improve the biochemical properties of blood vessels, and help different types of vascular disorders including capillary fragility and microangiopathy of the retina.
- Resveratrol (Doctors Best) Studies have shown resveratrol inhibits angiogenesis and suppresses retinal neovascularization due to a genetic mutation. Also, several laboratory experiments have suggested additional protective mechanisms of resveratrol in macular degeneration, including protecting retinal pigment epithelial cells from hydrogen peroxide-induced oxidative stress and light damage.
- Best Natural Vision Enhancers (Doctor’s Best)
- NAC Detox Regulator (Doctor’s Best)
Remember for proper treatment suggestions for Macular Degeneration Step #1 is ask your eye doctor is it WET or DRY?
There are numerous other natural treatments, however as always it is best to treat any serious health problem through an appointment with your Naturopath to get specific dosages of supplements and to take into account the rest of your health concerns as to what is most appropriate for you.
Naturopath appointments (in office or via telephone) are available at the Tree of Life Wellness Center (508-336-4242).
Jane Jansen, Naturopath