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Macular degeneration is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in the world but is that a misnomer? Can certain treatments for macular degeneration actually improve the health of your eyes and restore vision to normal?

Macular degeneration is a disease marked by the gradual destruction of your macula [1]. This is the inner part of your eye around your retina and is responsible for your central vision [2]. As the macula experiences more and more damage, not surprisingly, the visual acuity of the patient begins to suffer and he is may not be able to focus on objects anymore. Macular degeneration treatment is possible in the form of medications like anti-VEGF therapy to prevent the further damage to your eye but that just slows the destruction of the eye. Is there a way to reverse macular degeneration? [3] Read more to find out. 

Can We Actually Reverse Macular Degeneration? 

The big reason that we start to have a visual impairment in our eyes in the form of macular degeneration is that of long-term co-morbidities. Hypertension and arteriosclerosis are two big conditions that have synergistic properties and can insult eyesight quite dramatically over time. High levels of lipids in the blood from years of high triglyceride levels can also lead to the accumulation of a product called drusen; the first obvious signs of macular degeneration. These balls of fat can further obstruct vision yet we are not about to just simply stick a vacuum to the end of an IV line and suck out all the lipids that we have ingested in our lives, unfortunately. It is a very common disease in the population as we age and 20 percent of the population over the age of 60 and 40 percent of the population over the age of 70 will have this disease [4]. 

Add that to the fact that by the time someone reaches 70, they have already undergone extensive oxidative stress, had lipofuscin molecules form, have extensive damage to the cell membranes due to chronic hypertension and are now even fighting necrotic tissue from the surrounding tissue in the macula as tissue continues to die and the prognosis seems quite bleak. These are some of the main reasons why age-related macular degeneration is toted as the leading cause of irreversible blindness. [5

Treatment Options Available 

Hopefully, there is still a chance to rally as we get into what you can actually do when fighting such a difficult condition. The obvious options are to limit your risk factors as best as possible to avoid macular degeneration in the first place. Smoking and hypertension are the two most treatable risk factors that patients can control through cessation and medication. Studies indicate that patients who smoke have a 4 times greater chance of developing AMD compared to controls and the number of pack-years of smoking dramatically influences the onset of macular degeneration [6]. To makes things short and sweet: quit smoking immediately

If early symptoms of macular degeneration are caught, there are more substantial interventions that patients can try in order to even try to reverse their eventual macular degeneration.

Studies show that patients who suffer from macular dystrophy can benefit from a combination of diet, high levels of vitamin E and supplementation of lutein can, in fact, reverse the cellular changes if the disease is caught early enough. [7]

Don't be confusing macular degeneration and macular dystrophy, however. Dystrophy is the term to describe early cellular changes before you ever would see the symptoms of the condition. 

For those of you who think that transplantation of the damaged retinal and macular tissue could be a viable solution, sorry in advance for dispelling that morsel of hope. Transplant attempts have been conducted on animal subjects to determine if you could replace damaged retina photo-receptors that die as the macula deteriorates with some success. Unfortunately, early trials on human subjects have been met with complete failure so this is not a viable option to restore the function of your photo-receptors overnight. [8]

As it stands, the most useful thing that patients can hope to do to treat their macular degeneration is to try slowing the progress of the damage to maintain eyesight. There is no "fountain of Youth" treatment that will be able to restore all the tissue to the same level it once was so the next best thing is to get into some of the treatments that have high efficacy levels for macular degeneration.

Things like Anti-VEGF are remarkable and preventing the growth of additional blood vessels which can make matters worse. Our body is programmed to try to adapt to insults we cause so we can live as functionally as possible. When patients have hypertension and lipids blocking their blood vessels, the body's adaptation is to generate new blood vessels to try to compensate for the lack of blood flow to tissues. Unfortunately, that is exactly what your eye does not want because these blood vessels will overcrowd your retina and macula and significantly reduce your vision. Blocking the blood vessels from growing will allow you to preserve your vision for years longer than would be capable of without therapy. In one study, more than 50 percent of patients maintained at least 20/40 vision after 5 years of therapy with Anti-VEGF compared to controls who lost their vision [9]. You may not have the "eagle eyes" you once had but unfortunately, that is the best you can hope for with this condition. 

All in all, there is no way to reverse macular degeneration through a simple macular degeneration treatment. You need to manage your risk factors and make annual trips to your optometrist to make sure that you catch the early signs of macular degeneration. Ask your doctor for a more detailed eye exam if you worry you may have this condition. 

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