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January 12, 2023
Treat Macular Degeneration Naturally With This One Powerful Ingredient
Macular degeneration affects more than just your vision: this notorious disease can rob you of some of life’s most treasured joys.
Going through daily life with blurred vision or a full-on blind spot can make it difficult to recognize the faces of those you love, navigate in the dark, or even enjoy watching a movie at home on the couch. In some cases, you may even experience disorienting hallucinations as your brain tries to compensate for what your eyes can no longer capture (1).
Unfortunately, this debilitating condition is painfully common. As of 2019, an estimated 19.8 million Americans who were 40 or older (that’s 12.6% of them) were living with age-related macular degeneration.
You deserve to be able to see. Here’s what to know about the two different types of age-related macular degeneration, their main cause, and how to treat it naturally.
What Is Macular Degeneration?
There are two types of age-related macular degeneration: wet age-related macular degeneration and dry age-related macular degeneration.
Dry Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Dry age-related macular degeneration, or dry AMD, is the more common of the two conditions. It tends to progress more slowly and gradually than wet AMD, but it is less treatable than wet AMD (2).
Dry AMD is caused by changes underneath the retina—a layer of tissue on the back of the eyeball. These changes occur in the macular, the central part of your retina that helps you see with clarity. When a person has dry AMD, fats and proteins called drusen build up underneath the macula and cause vision problems.
Wet Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Wet age-related macular degeneration (wet AMD) is far less common than dry AMD, and it can lead to more fast-moving and severe vision loss. However, it is actually more treatable than dry AMD (3).
Wet AMD occurs when irregular blood vessels grow underneath the eye’s macula. The blood vessels then leak fluid into the retina and cause reduced vision. These blood vessels can also cause scarring in the retina over time.
When wet AMD is not treated, it can lead to rapid central vision loss.
While wet AMD only consists of about 10% of macular degeneration cases, it causes around 90% of AMD-related cases of major vision loss (4).
It doesn’t happen often, but in rare situations, dry AMD can become wet AMD. Because of this, it is super important to keep up with doctor visits and check-ups no matter what kind of AMD you are first diagnosed with.
Symptoms of Macular Degeneration
The exact symptoms of macular degeneration will depend on which type you have.
If you have dry AMD, your symptoms will come in three stages (5).
- Early-stage dry AMD will not have symptoms, but it is sometimes noticeable during eye exams if your doctor dilates your eyes.
- Depending on the person, intermediate-stage dry AMD sometimes presents zero symptoms. But for others, it may involve symptoms like blurriness in the center of your vision and difficulty seeing in lower light.
- With late-stage dry AMD, you might see straight lines as crooked or wavy. Your vision may lose its sharpness, and you might see some blank spots. At this stage, your symptoms are very similar to the symptoms of wet AMD.
If you have wet AMD, your symptoms will progress very quickly. They can include:
- Seeing straight lines as wavy or crooked
- A blurry space in the middle of your vision
- A blank spot in the middle of your vision
- Trouble seeing in low lighting
- Fading colors that appear less vivid than they used to
If you suspect that you have wet AMD, see your doctor immediately. It can cause damage fast, and you’ll want to do everything you can to preserve your vision.
Causes of Macular Degeneration
There isn’t one specific reason for AMD—at least, not that researchers know of yet. However, there are several known factors that increase your risk.
- Drusen (fats and proteins) under the retina
- Being older than 50
- Being a smoker
- Having high blood pressure (also called hypertension)
- Being overweight or obese
- Having a family history of AMD
- Being caucasian (6)
- Regularly eating foods with high levels of saturated fats
Some of these risk factors are beyond your control, but there are some that you can counteract. Consider quitting smoking, doing your best to lower your blood pressure, eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and getting regular eye exams to improve your risk factors.
Can Macular Degeneration be Reversed?
There’s a powerful, little-known ingredient that can help improve your macular degeneration naturally: an antioxidant sourced from the deepest seas. It’s called astaxanthin. This red-orange pigment is a potent antioxidant that occurs naturally in salmon, trout, algae, shrimp, crayfish, and deep-sea Antarctic krill (7).
Astaxanthin is famous for its anti-inflammatory capabilities, and it’s the natural ingredient that gives salmon its famous pink color. Recent studies have found that astaxanthin can significantly improve the outcome in cases of age-related macular degeneration (8). One way it does this is by increasing blood flow to the eyes (low ocular blood flow is a feature of many AMD cases) (9, 10). Astaxanthin can also improve several other ocular diseases including diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and cataracts.
So where does astaxanthin get its power? By being a carotenoid, a type of pigment found in algae, plants, and photosynthetic bacteria (11). Research has linked carotenoids like astaxanthin to a reduced risk of AMD—particularly when carotenoids are consumed in the diet. A regular supplement of astaxanthin could help you improve your AMD, or reduce your risk of developing it.
An excellent, potent source of astaxanthin is krill oil. NativePath Antarctic Krill Oil is loaded with astaxanthin—unlike its less powerful cousin, fish oil, which doesn’t include the ingredient at all (12). As an added bonus, krill oil is packed with omega-3s. These healthy fatty acids can help lower your blood pressure which can in turn help to reduce your risk of AMD (13)!
- Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) affects millions of Americans every year.
- There are two types of AMD: dry AMD and wet AMD.
- Dry AMD is more common and creeps up more slowly. Wet AMD progresses rapidly and can cause vision damage very quickly.
- Both types of AMD have similar symptoms in their later stages. Be aware of blank spots and fuzzy spots in the middle of your vision, seeing straight lines as blurry, seeing colors as less vivid, and struggling to see in low lighting.
- There isn’t one specific cause of AMD, but many risk factors can contribute to developing it.
- Astaxanthin, a powerful carotenoid, can help improve your AMD outcome or reduce your risk of developing it. Krill oil is a potent source of astaxanthin.
Frequently Asked Questions
Glaucoma vs. macular degeneration: what's the difference?
Both age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma can cause vision loss with age (14). Beyond that, however, they are quite different. Macular degeneration affects the eye’s macula. It usually causes damage to your central vision. Glaucoma, on the other hand, happens when the optic nerve suffers damage, which is often caused by eye pressure. It tends to start with peripheral vision loss.
Is macular degeneration hereditary?
As a writer, editor, and wellness seeker, Claire has written for Self, Health, Prevention, CNN, Mic, Livestrong, and Greatist, just to name a few. When she's not writing, she specializes in traveling, getting lost in health-related research rabbit holes, and finding new ways to spoil her cat.
This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Chad Walding nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program.