Macular degeneration becoming a treatable conditionDr. Melissa LeachSpecial to the Enterprise Age-related macular degeneration is a slow acting eye disease which causes degeneration of the part of your eye that is responsible for central vision. While macular degeneration was untreatable in the not-too-distant past, several therapies are now available, with promising options on the horizon. Macular degeneration is a disease that tends to affect adults age 50 and older. The deterioration occurs in the macula, which is the center of the retina; the layer of tissue on the inside back wall of the eyeball. Macular degeneration does not cause total blindness, but it worsens your quality of life by blurring or causing a blind spot in your central vision. Clear central vision is necessary for reading, driving, recognizing faces and doing detailed work. Macular degeneration occurs in two forms: dry and wet. Dry macular degeneration is degeneration of the retinal tissue without bleeding. This is the most common form of the disease. Wet macular degeneration occurs when new blood vessels grow and leak fluid underneath the macula. Most cases of wet macular degeneration develop from the dry type of the disease. Early detection and treatment of either kind may help to reduce the extent of vision loss and in some instances improve vision. Recent studies have demonstrated the benefits of vitamin therapy for macular degeneration. Although vitamin therapy is not considered treatment and there is no guarantee of success, many patients show benefit from it. In these studies, it was made apparent that specific doses of the vitamins were necessary for prevention, maintenance and therapeutic use in the disease. Based on medical journals the standard of care for macular degeneration patients should include the recommendations from the Age Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) plus lutein which was discovered as beneficial in The Veterans Lutein Antioxidant Supplementation Trial (LAST study). The AREDS formula includes; Vitamin C 500 mg, Vitamin E 400 IU, Beta carotene 15mg, Zinc 80 mg, as zinc oxide, Copper 2 mg, as cupric oxide (copper should be taken with zinc, because high dose zinc is associated with copper deficiency). The lutein in the LAST study was found to work best with 6 mg per day as maintenance and 20 mg per day for therapeutic use. Other nutrients such as Zeaxanthin and omega-3 fatty acids are being investigated currently and are showing promising results in eye health. It is extremely important to consult your medical doctor before initiating any vitamin therapy to determine if vitamins are beneficial or safe for you. In the same manner, smokers must be cautious in that high doses of beta-carotene (Vitamin A) increase the risk of lung cancer and high doses of zinc may be implicated in urinary tract infections.Also promising are the treatment choices for wet macular degeneration. Injections of medicines such as Macugen, Lucentis or Avastin into the eye have shown to decrease the progression of the disease and or improve vision sometimes. Patients, who have had the procedure, report very little discomfort, anxiety or problems from the eye injections. Another older treatment option is photodynamic therapy (PDT). PDT uses laser treatment along with medicine to decrease the progression of the disease. Future studies are combining the two methods to investigate the benefits which may include better vision outcomes and more permanent stabilization. Many risk factors have been associated with macular degeneration. The general consensus classifies them as nonmodifiable (unchangeable) and modifiable (changeable) risk factors. Nonmodifiable risk factors include age, family history, female gender, light iris color, farsightedness and diabetes. Modifiable risk factors include nutritional deficiency, smoking, obesity, lifetime sun exposure, cardiovascular disease, alcohol consumption and sedentary lifestyle. In summary, macular degeneration is a prevalent disease in our older population that deserves attention. Scientists and doctors are working together to help people retain vision and therefore quality of life. Prevention of macular degeneration is necessary at an early age. Modifiable risk factors which can be avoided or reduced, must be addressed throughout life so that vision can last forever. Regular eye examinations along with healthy living may preserve one's eyesight or allow treatment to do the same.