In part 1 we gave an overview of how damage to our retinas can increase the chances of developing macular degeneration (MD).
What Is Macular Degeneration?
In our maculas, we have pigment cells, similar to in our skin. Pigment absorbs the harmful radiation that can damage our retinas, so it’s a good thing to have. When our retinas stop functioning properly, these pigment cells can stop processing lipids, causing them to build up. In time, it can damage the light receptors in the eyes, which causes decreased central vision. When this happens, we call it macular degeneration.
Two Types Of Macular Degeneration
One type of macular degeneration is dry, and the other is wet. The dry type generally advances and progresses more slowly, and there is less threat to sudden profound vision loss. However, as it advances it can still lead to central vision blindness, just not as quickly as the wet type. The image above this article shows an ocular CT scan of the layers of a macula with dry macular degeneration. The wavy orange and red lines are drusen, which is lipid debris build-up and can cause reduced vision.
We call it wet because blood vessels grow in areas that block our vision, and they are fragile and can leak, leading to liquid and blood in our retinas. This wet type is more aggressive, and generally causes quicker worsening of the central vision.
For dry MD, there is not any effective treatment. For wet, there are certain eye injections that can help reduce the severity of the leakage of the blood vessels in the retina, and some stem cell therapies that can help, but they don’t reverse the damage done.
Since there really are no treatments that cure or remove the damage done by MD, we must make every effort to reduce our risk factors. MD is hereditary, but we can’t change our genes, so that is out of our control. It doesn’t mean you will get it if you have a family history of it, but it does mean you have more risk of getting it. The other risk factors are smoking, obesity, and exposure to the sun. Diet has been shown to affect your risk for MD as well. Taking a supplement of Zeaxanthin and Lutein has been shown to reduce risk. There are many different “eye” vitamins on the market. Some are great and some not so great. Check out Retinal Health Part 3 for details on what foods and supplements I recommend to “maximeyes” the health of your retinas.