Monday, May 25, 2009

Am I At Risk For Macular Degeneration?

The most important risk factor for macular degeneration is getting older. There are other risk factors involved which include smoking, genetics, obesity, poor nutrition, and lack of exercise. People who eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, do not smoke and are not obese, will be at less risk for developing this disease.

Your ophthalmologist can look in your eyes and see if you are at risk. If she/he sees drusen, then you are at risk. Drusen are collections of waste consisting of left over oxidized fats that have accumulated over time. When there is too much of this waste, the eye can not rid itself of all of it and then we see drusen.

There are two types of macular degeneration, wet and dry. The dry form is when the rods, cones and pigment cells just die. The wet type is when new blood vessels form behind the retina and leak fluid and bleed.

Our current research suggests that high daily doses of vitamin C (500 mg), vitamin E (400 IU), beta-carotene (25,000IU), and zinc (8 mg for women and 11 mg for men) may help patients with large drusen or advanced disease in one eye. The supplements in these patients lower the risk of severe disease by 25 percent. These results were published in the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) completed in 2001.

There are other drugs that can be used in patients with wet macular degeneration that include injections into the eye which stop blood vessels from growing. Those drugs are Avastin or Lucentis.

Right now there is a new study being conducted to see whether lutein supplement will be more effective than beta-carotene. When smokers took high doses of beta-carotene (33,000 to 50,000 IU per day, they seemed to have a higher risk of lung cancer. Therefore, this new study will be looking into whether this risk is real. In addition, Omega-3 fatty acids will be used to see if adding them to the diet will benefit patients with large drusen. Other studies being conducted at this time are assessing the incidence of macular degeneration relative to meat consumption, vitaimin D levels, and glycemic indexes.

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