AMD Treatments and Ways to Avoid Macular Degeneration

AMD Treatments and Ways to Avoid Macular Degeneration

Researchers are working at warp speed to find treatments in the fight against age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Treatments can range from pharmaceutical attempts at slowing disease progression to natural remedies that reduce inflammation or increase circulation. There are also various ways to avoid macular degeneration including the recommendation that if some lifestyle changes are implemented before middle age, one may be able to steer clear of this blinding risk altogether. 

Harvard Medical School reports on hope for the future of eradicating macular degeneration by citing current medical applications, remedies, and prevention currently in play. These AMD treatments and ways to avoid macular degeneration give an update on where research stands today and what can be done to keep your eyesight from developing retinal dysfunction. 

Too Bad, It’s in Your Genes…or Not

Genomics, the study of genes and the genome (total DNA gene load), has considerably advanced. However, what was once thought of as a ‘set-in-stone’ trajectory regarding gene outcome, now scientists are realizing that some of these genes need to be triggered to contribute to disease and therefore such triggering may be avoided. 

According to Dr. Joan W. Miller, chief of ophthalmology at Harvard-affiliated-Massachusetts Eye and Ear and ophthalmology chair at Harvard Medical School, regarding a macular degeneration genome, 

“One needs to be concerned, but it doesn’t mean you’re destined to get it. It’s a complex disease, and it takes a combination of factors for it to develop,”

Researchers estimate that one of these “combination of factors” is how you have the ability to reduce certain risks both medially and naturally when it comes to AMD.

Current Treatments and Treatments Being Studied

There are a variety of single or combined treatments for preventing or slowing AMD. Harvard Medical School cites these to be the top treatment choices you can discuss with your eye doctor or ophthalmologist.

  • Stem cell therapy – This treatment replaces damaged retinal cells with stem cells that will turn into replacement retinal cells.
  • Gene therapy – This approach introduces new genes into the eye to help the retina produce proteins that stop abnormal blood vessel growth.
  • Statin therapy – Statins, drugs that lower cholesterol levels and reduce inflammation, also may be able to pull bad fats out of the retina. Dr. Miller commented, “We did a small pilot study that showed large drusen disappeared in nearly half of the patients with AMD who took a high-dose statin, and no one progressed. It was only 10 out of 23 patients. But now we’re interested in investigating that further,…The notion is that you could turn back the clock and sets things back by a decade.”
  • Fixing the retina’s “autophagy” –  Autophagy is a natural process by which cells clear away waste or damaged material inside them. [This is currently being studied for possible advantages for retinal repair.]
  • Fighting inflammation – Dr. Miller believes that, “It could be that fats collect in an abnormal way which stimulates a chronic inflammatory reaction that’s destructive to the [retinal] tissues,” [Inflammation and anti-inflammatory processes are being studied]
  • Targeting the immune system – A part of the immune response called the ‘complement cascade’ may mistakenly damage the retina. This may play a role in AMD. Several drugs that inhibit the complement cascade are being studied.

These are strong and effective treatments as well as solid research currently underway to combat the incurable and inevitably blinding AMD disease. As the retina has limited ability to coincide with overall systemic repair due to its complex labyrinth of capillaries that solely feed the optical apparatus, research is painstakingly slow. However, as more laboratories look at these and many other treatment options, research is beginning to advance at a more rapid pace. In the meantime, avoiding AMD at all costs, particularly if you are rounding the corner into the age of fifty, should be a top priority.

Sidestepping AMD

Embracing some lifestyle changes could enhance your optical health and possibly help avoid macular degeneration. These are some tips on ways to reduce AMD risk, strengthen your eyes, and maybe even improve eyesight function such as better focus, increased clearness, and refined night vision. 

Maintain Healthy Blood Pressure 

High blood pressure or hypertension can significantly compromise retinal function. An archival study, from the Department of Preventive Medicine, Division of Epidemiology, University Medical Center, Stony Brook, NY and the Retinal Vascular Center, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, Md.  concluded that, 

“These findings suggest that neovascular [abnormal blood cell growth] AMD is associated with moderate to severe hypertension, particularly among patients receiving antihypertensive treatment. They also support the hypotheses that neovascular and non-neovascular AMD may have a different pathogenesis and that neovascular AMD and hypertensive disease may have a similar underlying systemic process.”

According to the Mayo Clinic these are some ways to naturally lower high blood pressure:

  • Lose weight
  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat healthy foods like the Mediterranean Diet
  • Reduce sodium intake
  • Limit alcohol
  • Stop smoking
  • Reduce caffeine
  • Reduce stress

Eat More Antioxidants

Oxidative stress and inflammation are the two major causes of a wide variety of health compromises, including macular degeneration. Clinical Ophthalmology published the study, ‘Antioxidants for the Treatment of Retinal Disease: Summary of Recent Evidence’ stating that,

“Oxidative stress, secondary to the pathologic imbalance between oxygen metabolism and antioxidant defense systems, is common in the macula because of the retina’s high consumption of oxygen, high proportion of polyunsaturated fatty acids, and exposure to visible light. Our review details the instrumental role of oxidative stress in the pathogenesis of various retinal macular diseases.”

Antioxidants have shown excellent response in preventing or slowing macular degeneration particularly those from the Age-related Eye Disease Study (AREDS). Excellent antioxidant supplements with research notes from the Clinical Ophthalmology study include:

  • AREDs supplements – Includes vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, zinc, copper. “The AREDS supplementation group was correlated with strong prevention in disease progression in comparison to the placebo group”
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids – “Omega-3 fatty acids have exhibited the ability to renew RPE cells and, when deficient, can lead to photoreceptor degradation and accumulation of drusen in both the RPE and sub-RPE space”
  • Resveratrol – “A phenolic phytochemical derived mainly from plant sources…has been demonstrated to suppress UV-induced hydrogen peroxide production in RPE cells.”

Protecting your eyes (this includes good blue-light blocking sunglasses) and eating healthy are the two staples in preventing or slowing AMD. These AMD treatments and ways to avoid macular degeneration show excellent options and applications to increase the longevity of your healthy vision.