THE DOCTORS 101 CHRONIC SYMPTOMS & CONDITIONS #9: “MACULAR DEGENERATION”

Macular Degeneration is the most common cause of blindness in the western world.as you get older, it becomes increasingly common, and almost 20% of people older than 85 years have this disease.

It comes in 2 types, dry and wet. Mostly it starts as the milder dry type, which develops slowly and has no definite treatment. The dry type can develop into the more rapidly progressive wet variety, however, and is important to notice and report to your ophthalmologist.

The MACULA is the center of the visual field, and has by far the most photoreceptors. It yields the sharpest vision, and is essential for reading, and even recognizing faces.

LOSS OF VISION is the commonest symptom, but is hard to notice in a slowly developing condition. A neurologist friend of mine alerted me to the AMSLER GRID, which helps in picking up the subtle distortions of this sneaky problem.

Checking your vision every few days-it takes only a few seconds- is a good idea as you age. You might be healthy in every other way, but if you are blind, the quality of life in your final years will suffer. The mechanics of the wavy lines generated by macular degeneration are deposits beneath the macula, raising it up.

The deposits are fatty in the case of the dry, and fluid in the case of the wet macular degeneration; and fluid from the abnormal blood vessels in the wet MD can collect very rapidly indeed.

Even though the cause of MD is unknown, prevention is by the same old healthy habits tiresomely mentioned in all my other postings: DIET and EXERCISE. I’m sure that good sleep doesn’t hurt either, No cigarette smoking of course, and there are some vitamins and minerals mentioned, such as lutein, zeaxanthin, zinc, and copper.

The wet MD does have a treatment to slow down the disease. Since blood vessel growth is important in causation, antibodies to VEGF, vascular endothelial growth factor, are injected into the macular area. I’m sure that more help is on the way. Some treatments to support the protective pigmented layer of the retina are currently in progress.

–DR. C

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