What is Macular Degeneration?

Age related macular degeneration is a disease caused by damage or breakdown of the retina. This is responsible for our central vision. This condition affects both distance and close vision. Macular degeneration is the leading cause of severe vision loss in people over 65. Although the exact causes of AMD are not fully understood, study’s show that antioxidant vitamins and zinc may reduce the effects in some people with the disease.

There are two kinds of Macular Degeneration, wet and dry. Approximately 85% to 90% of the cases of Macular Degeneration are the “dry” (atrophic) type, while 10-15% are the “wet” (exudative) type.

Age related macular degeneration is one of the most common causes of poor vision after age 60. The macula is a small area at the center of the retina in the back of the eye that allows us to see fine details. The visual symptoms are loss of central vision. Macular degeneration causes the loss of sharp vision necessary for driving, reading, recognizing faces, and detail.

Although the specific cause is unknown, it seems to be part of aging. While age is the most significant risk factor; heredity, blue eyes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and smoking have also been identified as risk factors. This accounts for 90% of new cases of legal blindness in the United States.

Macular Degeneration Treatments

There is currently no known cure for Macular Degeneration, but promising research is being done on many fronts. Although the exact causes are not fully understood, a recent scientific study shows that antioxidant vitamins and zinc may reduce the effects in some people with the disease. Among people at high risk for late-stage macular degeneration, a dietary supplement of vitamins C, E, and beta-carotene, along with zinc, lowered the risk of the disease progressing to advanced stages by about 25% to 30%.
Light affects the eye by stimulating oxygen, leading to the production of highly reactive and damaging compounds called free radicals. Antioxidant vitamins (vitamins C and E and beta-carotene) may help slow the progression of macular degeneration.

Studies show that some older people have low levels of zinc in their blood. Because zinc is important for the health of the macula, supplements of zinc in the diet may slow down the disease.

It is very important to remember that vitamin supplements are not a cure for macular degeneration; specific amounts of certain supplements do play a key role in helping some people at high risk for advanced stages to maintain their vision. We can determine if you are at risk for developing advanced macular degeneration and prescribe supplements if needed. Visit us at Eye Mechanix if you want to schedule an exam or learn more about common eye conditions.

Dr. Ricketts has State Board Certifications in Illinois and Ohio; and is Therapeutically Licensed by the National Board of Optometry for the treatment of Ocular Diseases. Dr. Ricketts has established Eye Mechanix to be integrated into the community by donating services and forging partnerships with many Chicago not-for-profit organizations.