Generation means that something new or fresh is being born. Degeneration means that something is dying or passing away. When used to describe something in the body, degeneration means a gradual breaking down of tissues or organs, resulting in reduced function of the parts affected. Degeneration from arthritis means that the affected joint does not work as well as it did before it degenerated. In Macular Degeneration the eyes do not work as well as they once did. Specifically, vision in the center of the visual field gets fainter and fainter until finally there is hardly any way to see things straight on.
The fact that this is a slow process, that it affects older persons, and that it continues to get worse if nothing is done to change the person’s lifestyle, leads me to believe firmly that the same factors that produce all degenerative changes in the body are involved in ARMD. Studies have shown that there is a higher incidence of ARMD in persons who have hypertension, diabetes, and conditions which cause clogging or hardening of the arteries. Therefore, if we can halt or reverse the damage done to our blood vessels and joints through adopting a healthier lifestyle, we can expect improvement in eye conditions like ARMD.
This is not just theory; I have seen it work with my patients and so have a number of other ophthalmologists. An added bonus is that the lifestyle recommendations for ARMD are bound to improve other degenerative conditions that patients may have.
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I want you to understand ARMD, not only in terms of the physical changes in the eye, but as a disease of lifestyle and aging with symptoms affecting the eye. Take a moment to honestly assess your overall health in terms of the dietary and exercise recommendations that we all know about already. We all know we should eat five to six servings of vegetables and fruit daily, exercise aerobically several times a week, and use some form of focused relaxation technique daily. It goes without saying that smoking at all and alcohol to excess are taboo. Ditto for sugar and fat from meat and dairy products. How do you rate? Do you think there might actually be a cause for the degenerative condition that has affected your eyes? If so, are you willing to try to eliminate the cause and adopt techniques and healing methods that might restore your vision? I hope so, for your sake. What have you got to lose? Please begin to implement these recommendations today!
KNOW YOUR SPECIFIC DIAGNOSIS
When your doctor gave you the news about ARMD, he probably told you that you have either ‘dry’ or ‘wet’ ARMD. This has nothing to do with how dry or teary your eyes feel to you. It refers rather to two completely different reasons why the macula in your eye or eyes has begun to degenerate. By the way, you may have ARMD in only one eye, or you may have Dry ARMD in one eye and Wet ARMD in the other. If so, the chances of it affecting the other eye are quite high, unfortunately. Going back to the wet and dry terms, ‘wet’ ARMD occurs when the blood vessels in the back of the eye begin to leak fluid or blood in the back portion of your inner eye. It affects 10% of persons with ARMD. Dry ARMD, which affects 90% of persons with ARMD results from a buildup of cellular waste products in the back part of the inner eye. It is very important that you know which type you have. If you have forgotten, or your doctor neglected to tell you, pick up the phone and call him or her to find out. This is a first step in empowering yourself to get better.
Wet Macular Degeneration has certain characteristics and prognosis (expected outcome). I have observed that some cases of Wet ARMD come on suddenly after a period of stress or shock, and a person may lose a great deal of vision in a short period of time. One of the treatments for wet ARMD uses laser surgery to cauterize the leaky blood vessels. This measure may preserve more vision in the
long run, but usually results in worse vision in the short run because healthy tissue is almost always destroyed along with the diseased vessels. Wet ARMD progresses faster than Dry ARMD and may result in greater loss of vision over a shorter time period. Wet ARMD is actually quite distinct from Dry ARMD and will respond to different alternative medical treatments than the dry type.
Dry ARMD results from an accumulation of dead cells in the area in the back of the inner eyeball where the retina and macula are located. The macula is actually the center of the retina. That is why, even when it degenerates, you can still see peripherally, or images made on the outer circle of the retina. As dead cells build up on the macula, they do two things: they block the macula’s ability to produce images and, they corrode this delicate tissue, leading to permanent degeneration. It is not understood exactly why the dead cells begin to build up and the ‘clean up’ mechanism that worked for sixty or more years starts to malfunction. That is, it is not clear from a molecular scientific understanding. But you already know that I have some strong suspicions that this process is what we call aging. This means that metabolic waste products begin to clog our system and new cells do not regenerate quickly enough to cope with this detritus. The reason this affects the macula so profoundly is that this is a very small, highly sensitive area, an area that is prone to accumulate waste by virtue of its high metabolic needs. The macula requires more oxygen, nutrients, and energy compared to other areas of the body. Therefore, early signs of more generalized degenerative changes may appear first in this area.
SYMPTOMS OF MACULAR DEGENERATION
If you know you have Macular Degeneration, you are familiar with the vision changes that prompted you to visit an ophthalmologist and get tested and diagnosed. If you have experienced changes in your vision and may be wondering whether you have ARMD, I will briefly describe its early symptoms. Of course, other eye conditions may have these same symptoms, so it is a good idea to be checked by a qualified eye care professional as soon as you are aware of them.
The first thing most people notice is a lessening of their sight as they look straight at things, like print, faces or clocks. This may be a dimming, a blurring, or actual ‘holes’ or black spots in the vision. Extreme light sensitivity and poor night vision also precede ARMD in many cases. Light-to-dark adaptation, needed when you try to find a seat in a movie theatre, is apt to be very slow. Because doctors do not think that anything can be done to halt the progress of this disease, the public has not been educated to be aware of these early symptoms. However, I believe that if people who notice any of these changes in their vision begin a program like the one described in the following chapters, they may be able to arrest the damage to their eyes and maintain near normal vision. ARMD, like most degenerative processes, takes a long time to develop. People may feel that it came on suddenly, but that is because one day they were fine and the next day they received a diagnosis where they feared they may go blind. It does not happen that way. Anyone over 35 years old who is reading this blog should take some of the steps toward better eye health. Those who have been diagnosed with ARMD should take them all.
There is hope
Once you understand the degenerative aspect of Macular Degeneration you can design a strategy to halt the degeneration and reverse the damage it has already done. Studies in aging have identified several key components that you must include in your strategy. I have listed them below, and use them throughout the blog as we discuss specific measures to reverse ARMD.
In this blog, I am going to talk about diet, vitamin and mineral supplements, homeopathy, relaxation, exercises for the eye and whole body, and some techniques that may be new to you – chelation and Microcurrent Stimulation. While these may seem to be very distinct approaches to health, all of these involve the four key components of anti-aging.
1. Increase oxygenation of tissues.
2. Make the metabolic processes more efficient.
3. Target nourishment to tissues and cells.
4. Detoxify tissues and cells.
A program that incorporates these objectives will certainly enhance your overall health. Although, I am not an advocate of living to over 100 years, I am a firm believer in the quality of life and I want the same for my patients. Our world needs vigorous elders. Medical science can keep us alive longer, but only by taking responsibility for their health can individuals make that extra time useful and enjoyable.
Though we are just in the first chapter, you have probably already encountered some ideas that you will not see in other blogs on Macular Degeneration. One idea is that how you live probably has something to do with your developing this condition. Some people feel blamed by this. A better way to look at it is that if you had something to do with getting ARMD, you may be able to do something about it.