Macular Degeneration: New Promising Treatment and Natural Alternatives
If you are one of the 11 million Americans afflicted with macular degeneration, you know the loss of central vision the disease causes makes it difficult to read, drive and watch TV. But a new treatment is poised to be a promising alternative for those suffering with this disease.
Researchers at the North Carolina School of Medicine have found a promising drug treatment that is superior to the current treatment. While we typically don’t advocate for pharmaceutical interventions, this drug would be a vastly improved alternative to the current, conventional treatment for the disease, an antibody known as anti-VEGF that is administered through eye injections.
New Drug Treatment Has Advantages Over Current Medical Treatment
Published in the September 9, 2013 issue of Journal of Clinical Investigation, the study found a class of medications called MDM2 inhibitors were very effective in regressing the abnormal blood vessels caused by macular degeneration that lead to vision loss.
The anti-VEGF treatment is costly in terms of time and money, as patients need to have a new injection every 4 to 8 weeks. Senior author Sai Chavala, M.D., says the new treatment would be longer lasting, so it would reduce costs along with the risk of eye infections from the injections.
While this new research is promising for those who have already been diagnosed with macular degeneration, prevention is still the best approach!
Prevention and Natural Alternatives For Macular Degeneration
1. Increase Lutein and Zeaxanthin
The macula, or more specifically the macular pigment, contains three carotenoids, including lutein and zeaxanthin. (The third is meso-zeaxanthin.)
In the case of macular degeneration, the macula starts to deteriorate or break down. As a result, you can experience blurriness or darkness in the center of your vision. While it does not lead to total blindness, it does severely limit your vision while only keeping your peripheral vision intact.
To describe this more fully, imagine an old-fashioned, non-digital clock on the wall. A person with AMD would know the clock was there, but could not tell you what time it is.
Because of the makeup of the macula and the breakdown of the macula in AMD, as well as the 1994 study showing the protective effects of lutein and zeaxanthin, it’s no wonder so many researchers have explored the effect these carotenoids have on eye health and vision.
2. Acupuncture May Be Helpful
Little research on acupuncture in relation to macular degeneration can be found within the world medical community outside of China. However, a small study appearing in the January 2011 issue of a popular Chinese journal, found acupuncture to be more effective than medication in treating the disease. The efficacy rate in the medication group was 60 percent, while the efficacy rate in the acupuncture group was 88 percent.
2. Eat Food Sources of Vitamin D, Betaine and Methionine
According to researchers at Tuffs Medical Center, a nutritious diet and healthful lifestyle practices might help significantly cut the risk of macular degeneration. Published in the July 1, 2011 issue of Ophthalmology, the study’s participants were sets of twins. Because heredity plays a major role in the disease, scientists sought to determine why two people with the same genes would have cases that differed in severity.
In evaluating the dietary practices of the twins, those who ate food sources of vitamin D, betaine and methionine were found to have less severe cases of the illness. Betaine is present in grains, fish and spinach, while methionine is found in fish, dairy foods and poultry. A good food source of vitamin D is fish. In addition to the dietary practices, they discovered macular degeneration was more severe in those who engaged in smoking.
3. Boost Your Omega-3s
Getting plenty of omega-3 fatty acids can not only protect you from macular degeneration, it can also help prevent dry eye syndrome, which can lead to scarring of the cornea and vision loss and is just plain uncomfortable. One study found that people who ate fish twice a week reduced their risk of developing macular degeneration by 50 percent. Researchers say it’s the omega-3 oils in fish that are providing the protection.
4. Eat Plenty of Fresh Produce, Especially Spinach
The Tufts Medical research also found that consuming a diet plentiful in fruits and vegetables could make a difference, even in patients with a genetic predisposition toward the disease.
Scripps Research Institute reports on studies that indicate eating three servings of spinach per week may reduce the risk of developing macular degeneration by 43 percent.
Additionally, Scripps notes research shows diets high in colored pigments called antioxidant carotenoids, such as lutein and zeaxanthin, are linked to a lower incidence of the disease. Flavonoids are also being studied for their potential benefit in preventing macular degeneration. All these nutrients are found in a broad spectrum of fruits and vegetables.