Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) is the leading cause of blindness in the United States among people age 65 or older. As the name suggests, it is caused by the degeneration of the portion of the eye called the macula.
The macula is located in the center of the retina and is responsible for transmitting the finest details of our sight. It’s also responsible for the center of our visual field. Those suffering with advancing stages of macular degeneration experience vision loss in this central region of their sight. Symptoms can be experienced as blurry vision, straight lines appearing curved or crooked, fading of colors, or a dark area in the center of vision.
There are two types of ARMD: the wet form and the dry form.
Ninety percent of those diagnosed with macular degeneration have the dry form. In this type, tiny white waste deposits called drusen accumulate in the retina. As more waste is deposited and they grow in size, it may cause a dimming and distortion of vision. This is a slow process that takes years to occur and can lead to significant vision loss.
The wet form of ARMD is found in about ten percent of the cases of macular degeneration, and is more serious. It’s caused by the formation of thin and weak blood vessels in the eye that then break, leak and/or bleed. This causes sudden vision loss and can result in scarring and destruction of the cells in the eye.
Can you avoid vision loss?
A diagnosis of age-related macular degeneration does not mean inevitable vision loss. Often people with this diagnosis are told by their ophthamologist, “it’s not a matter of if you lose your vision, but when you lose your vision.” This is not only a pessimistic outlook, but it’s also false. If one catches macular degeneration at an early enough stage, you can take steps to save and even improve your vision.
Nutrition to prevent vision loss
Allen Taylor, Director of the Laboratory for Nutrition and Vision Research at the USDA said in regards to macular degeneration, “Dietary changes may be the most practical and cost effective prevention method to combat progression of age related macular degeneration.”
* Avoid refined foods, artificial sweeteners, and trans-fats.
* Eat more whole foods, fruits (blueberries, blackberries, grapes, bilberries, and goji berries), vegetables (especially kale, collard greens, spinach, mustard greens and tomatoes), and oily fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines.
* Supplement with a good multi-vitamin (I recommend PhytoMulti by Metagenics).
* Take 1-2 grams of a good quality fish oil once a day. If you’re on a blood thinner like Coumadin, consult your physician.
* There is a well researched combination of vitamins called the AREDS formulation that is clinically proven to help slow the progression of macular degeneration (Viteyes AREDS formulation plus lutein is a good product). If you are a smoker you should avoid products with beta-carotene.
* Supplement with 10 mg Lutein, 10 mg Meso-Zeaxanthin, and 2 mg Zeaxanthin daily.
* Protect your eyes from damaging UV light with 2-3 g of Vitamin C per day.
Acupuncture to help heal your eyes
There are about eight acupuncturists in the United States, myself included, who specialize in treating degenerative eye conditions. Although acupuncture is not a cure for the disease, it can greatly improve and stabilize your vision. There are specific points on the body (no needles go into the eye) that benefit the cells in the retina and macula. Visual field studies and acuity studies have confirmed its beneficial effect for macular degeneration and other degenerative eye conditions. You can find more information on my website, www.acuherbal.com.
If you or someone you love is suffering from ARMD, there is hope. Improving your nutrition, adding the proper supplements, and utilizing acupuncture can all help improve and stabilize your vision. Don’t forget that the health of your eyes is dependent on the health of your entire body. A healthy lifestyle including regular exercise, relaxation, and a good diet are all essential to keep your vision throughout your entire life.
David Russell, L.Ac, is a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist, with a Master’s degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine and postgraduate studies in Hangzhou, China. Inspired to holistically heal vision conditions, David Russell studied under the nationally acclaimed Dr. Andy Rosenfarb. Now David brings to you a specialized system of acupuncture, nutrition, herbs, and functional medicine to help heal your eyes and restore the health of your body.