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Macular Degeneration—FAQ

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD/ARMD) is an eye disease that causes deterioration of the macula, which refers to the central portion of the retina. This condition can affect one’s ability to read, drive, or see clearly if it progresses to more advanced stages. Here are important answers to some frequently asked questions regarding macular degeneration.

What is Macular Degeneration?

Age-related macular degeneration refers to a deterioration of the retina and choroid that leads to a substantial loss in visual acuity, or sharpness of vision. It is the leading cause of significant visual acuity loss in people over the age of 50.

What Are the ​​Types of Macular Degeneration?

There are two types of macular degeneration: “dry” (non-neovascular) and “wet” (neovascular). It is possible for an individual to suffer from both forms. Learn more about them here.

  • Dry (Non-Neovascular) is the most common type of AMD, and is diagnosed in 85-90% of all cases. In this form, yellow deposits of lipid and protein called drusen slowly accumulate under the retina, between the retinal pigmented epithelium (RPE) layer and Bruch’s membrane. Over time, drusen exert an inflammatory effect which leads to the dysfunction and degeneration or atrophy of both the retinal pigmented epithelium and photoreceptor cells.
  • Wet (Neovascular) AMD is when the Bruch’s membrane begins to break down, and usually happens after one has had dry AMD for some period of time. This breakdown occurs around the drusen deposits, which allows new blood vessels to grow beneath the retina. These vessels are fragile and can leak fluid and blood, resulting in scarring of the macula and the potential for rapid and severe damage to central reading vision.

What Causes Macular Degeneration?

The exact cause of macular degeneration is unknown, however the condition develops as the eye ages. It is typically found in people ages 50 years or more, but drusen can sometimes be seen in younger people as well. Smoking, high-blood pressure, and a poor diet can contribute to AMD, but aren’t direct causes.

Is Macular Degeneration Hereditary?

Family history is an important association with AMD, but simply having a relative with AMD does not necessarily mean or guarantee that one will definitely develop AMD as well. However, genetics play a key role in AMD, and hereditary factors represent over 70% of the risk of developing the disease. Learn more about the genetics of AMD here.

How Long Does it Take to Lose Vision With Macular Degeneration?

In late stages of AMD, an individual may have difficulty seeing things in their central vision, but on average, it takes years to move from diagnosis to legal blindness as a result of dry AMD. However, if untreated, wet AMD can cause significant vision loss in days to weeks.

What Foods Should Be Avoided With Macular Degeneration?

Some foods that should be avoided with AMD include:

  • Processed foods that contain trans fats
  • Tropical oils such as palm oil
  • Lard, vegetable shortening, and margarine
  • High-fat dairy foods
  • Fatty beef, pork, and lamb

What Are the Symptoms of Macular Degeneration?

Here are some potential vision-related symptoms of AMD to be aware of:

  • More light is needed for tasks such as reading
  • A blurry spot appears in the center of your visual field
  • That blurry spot becomes larger and darker
  • Straight lines appear wavy
  • Straight-ahead vision becomes distorted or lost entirely in a short period of time

It’s important to be wary of these indicators, and to see an eye doctor immediately if any of these symptoms arise, as potential damage can happen quickly.

What is the Best Supplement For Macular Degeneration?

While no current treatment can prevent visual loss for patients with advanced forms of dry AMD), the Age-Related Eye Disease Studies (AREDS), conducted by the National Eye Institute, have found that a nutritional supplement may delay and prevent intermediate dry AMD from moving to the advanced form. This supplement formula, which is widely available over-the-counter, includes:

  • Vitamin C
  • Lutein
  • Vitamin E
  • Zeaxanthin
  • Zinc

Can Macular Degeneration Be Reversed?

No treatments can reverse macular degeneration, but some can help prevent the condition from worsening, which can be found in the questions below.

How to Reverse Macular Degeneration Naturally?

While there is no way to reverse macular degeneration naturally, taking measures such as reducing smoking, maintaining a healthy diet, and controlling high-blood pressure can help to prevent its formation.

Is There a Treatment For Dry AMD?

There are currently no specific treatments for dry AMD, though in some cases it may be possible to delay or prevent the progression of AMD from the intermediate to the advanced stage, where vision loss occurs. The National Eye Institute’s Age-Related Eye Disease Study has found that taking nutritional supplements with a specific high-dose formulation of certain antioxidants and minerals can delay or prevent the progression of AMD from the intermediate to the advanced stage by about 25%.

What is the Best Treatment For Wet Macular Degeneration?

There are five main treatments for wet AMD that use angiogenesis inhibitors. These treatments are: bevacizumab (Avastin), brolucizumab (Beovu®), aflibercept (Eylea®), ranibizumab (Lucentis®), and faricimab (Vabysmo). These treatments involve a series of intravitreal injections that deliver the medication into the vitreous gel of the eye. Learn more about the specifics of these treatments here.

Who is Most at Risk For Macular Degeneration?

Individuals with a hereditary history of AMD are at the greatest risk of developing the condition. When genetics aren’t a factor, people over 50 are generally at a higher risk, especially those who have a history of smoking and high-blood pressure.

How to Slow Down Macular Degeneration

Even after receiving a diagnosis of dry macular degeneration, there are several steps you can take that may help slow vision loss. These include:

  • Not smoking
  • Maintaining a healthy diet with fruits and vegetables
  • Maintaining a healthy weight and regularly exercising
  • Managing other health conditions such as high-blood pressure
  • Having regular checkups with your eye doctor

What Are Dry Macular Degeneration Treatment Breakthroughs?

The treatment of wet AMD has been revolutionized in recent years following the discovery of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a family of compounds in the body. VEGF regulates the process of neovascularization, which can cause wet AMD. These treatment breakthroughs include the five anti-VEGF drugs that have been developed to help stop neovascularization, which can be found under the question, “What is the Best Treatment For Wet Macular Degeneration?

Macular Degeneration Drugs to Avoid

Some individuals believe that aspirin and certain heart drugs including nitroglycerin, as well as some beta-blockers can raise your odds of AMD, although this remains unproven. Just as you may have questions to ask a Dr. about macular degeneration, you may also have questions regarding certain medications you are currently taking or have taken in the past.