Detecting and treating Macular Degeneration

March 18, 2011 3:11:58 PM PDT
Our eyes and our vision are very precious to all of us, but we need to be weary of the fact that age can take a toll on both.

One possible problem for aging eyes is Macular Degeneration. The Macular is the part of the retina we use to read print, knit and do anything else involving close-up work.

As we age, we are more at risk for Macular Degeneration, or M-D.

Fortunately, a new study shows steps we can take to prevent M-D from occurring. Certain vitamins can reduce the risk for M-D. Fish and fish oils can also reduce the risk.

There is a test for Macular Degeneration. It's called an Amsler Grid. The way it works is the patients put the grid on their refrigerator and look at it every day. Doctors are testing to see if the patient sees any change in the grid such as a wavy line, spot, or any other change in the little boxes that make up the grid. If they do, that is a sign that they have M-D.

Milagros Tenreiro is an eighty-one year old patient who has Macular Degeneration. Tenreiro's eye doctor caught the disease during a routine exam. She wasn't even showing any symptoms.

"You notice nothing. That's what's so serious about this condition," Tenreiro said.

Macular Degeneration is a serious condition, but eating fish or taking Omega 3 fish oils can greatly reduce your risk of getting the disorder because the vitamin capsules from the Omega 3 contain Vitamins A, C and E. Omega 3 also contains zinc and copper, which help fight off M-D.

Dr. Mark Fromer of Lenox Hill Hospital recommends additional steps to prevent M-D.

"There are things commonly found in the diet, such as green leafy vegetables, and nuts, which are very high in the kinds of vitamins you need to protect your retina," Fromer said.

The Macular is located in the center of the retina. The most common type of M-D is Dry Macular Degeneration. This is where waste products are deposited in the Macular.

Another type of M-D is Wet Macular Degeneration. This form of M-D occurs when there is bleeding in the Macular.

There is a treatment called Avastin, which is used for Wet Macular Degeneration. Doctors inject the medicine directly into the eye to stop abnormal blood vessels from growing and bleeding in the retina.

"You really don't feel anything at all," Fromer said.

Milagros Tenreiro is living proof that the treatment works. It stopped her disease.

Unfortunately, Dry Macular Degeneration is the form that accounts for ninety percent of M-D cases, and at present time, there is no effective treatment for it.

Caucasians are more likely than African Americans to get M-D. Other risk factors include obesity, family history, and something controllable - smoking.

Another controllable tip to prevent M-D is wear sunglasses.

UV light can affect the retina and increase the risk of developing M-D, so people can reduce their risk by wearing shades.