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Age-related macular degeneration: options include prevention

A healthy eye is worth protecting
A healthy eye is worth protecting

The prospect of losing one's vision is among the most terrifying
aspects of aging. While it's true that blindness can strike at any age
for a variety of reasons, some causes remain in the domain,
principally, of the elderly. One of these--macular degeneration--is
perhaps less well-known as of yet. Sadly, as our generation of Baby
Boomers reaches retirement, because of the sheer increase numerically
of those afflicted with that disease, age-related macular degeneration
will become widely known.

The condition afflicts the central portion of a person's field of
vision primarily rather than clouding it over as in the case with
cataracts. Divided into two varieties--wet and dry--they both deal with the macula, which is located in the center of the retina of the eye. With wet (exudative) MD, there is blood leakage from vessels in the eye. In the dry (non-exudative) version of this condition, there is a build-up, instead of blood, of dry cellular material known as drusen. In either case, however, the retina becomes detached as a result of these accumulations. Blindness, of course, is the end result. Wet MD may be treated to a degree; the dry kind is usually considered non-treatable.

Prevention, by far, is the best method of coping with macular degeneration, whether from a holistic or any other perspective. If you have (or your family has) a history of such conditions as diabetes, hypertension, or eye/head injuries, there may be a higher risk of developing MD. A diet high in anti-oxidants--especially lutein and zeaxanthin--is believed to aid in prevention of the disease, or slowing its progress. This is especially effective, it's been found, with the dry condition. A diet including plenty of dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale and Swiss chard, is recommended highly.

For wet MD, laser treatment is used most often; although it is not strictly a holistic form of medicine, it is less invasive than other forms of surgery. A newer form of treatment, photodynamic therapy, has been developed for this form of the disease as well as being used in other areas of the body. A special light-sensitive dye, verteporfin, is injected into the patient; it collects in the area of the eye where the leaking blood vessels are located. A laser is shone onto that area to activate the verteporfin, which then forms clots to stop the leaking of blood. Unfortunately, this method cannot be used for dry macular degeneration.

The Michigan Eye Institute, located in Flint, is using the above method as well as others, to treat macular degeneration. Please check the link below to learn more about the important work they are performing:

Want to do a home test for this condition? The Amsler grid link below will help you determine if you need to seek help for macular degeneration:

Remember, though: even if your eyes seem perfect today, things can change either rapidly as in cases of injury or infection, or over a lengthy period. Take care of your vision now, and a lot of grief can likely be warded off in the future. You only get one set of eyes--guard them thusly.


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