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We all know how important it is to take care of our eyes, especially in advanced ages, when time begins to affect the body and damage this important organ. Therefore, it is best that you know as much as possible about retinal degeneration, a disease that is particularly common among the elderly that affects the retina, and if you do not diagnose and start treating it on time, the consequences can be extreme – to the point of blindness.
Beyond the general information about this disease and the ways in which it can be identified, in the next article, you’ll also find information on the various treatment methods that can delay the development of the disease and even stop it. So, read this information carefully, get yourself checked if necessary, and pass the article on to your friends and family – you may be helping them save their eyesight…
Some important things to know about retinal degeneration:
The retina is a layer of the eye located in the upper inner part. Its function is to absorb the light from the environment and convert it into nerve signals that are translated in our brains. Retinal degeneration is a disease that affects the center of the retina (macula) and is estimated to affect about 150 million adults worldwide and is the most common cause of blindness. The exact cause of the disease is not yet clear, but it is estimated that there are several risk factors that affect its development:
- High blood pressure
- Family history
Retinal degeneration can be divided into two main types and if you detect even some of these symptoms, it is recommended that you periodically visit your eye doctor:
Dry retinal degeneration – This is the milder form of the disease that develops slowly and gradually. Between 85 and 90 percent of people with retinal degeneration in the world suffer from the dry form. This situation has no medical solution, but it is possible to delay its progress and prevent deterioration in various ways, which we will discuss below.
Wet retinal degeneration – In this condition, in addition to degeneration of the retinal cells, leakages from the blood vessels in the same area also occur. This is a more serious condition, which can result in severe and rapid loss of vision. However, in the case of early diagnosis, immediate actions can be taken to treat the disease and prevent loss of vision.
What are the primary symptoms of the disease?
Early diagnosis of retinal degeneration is critical in dealing with the disease and preventing blindness. For this purpose, it is important to know the warning signs that indicate retinal degeneration:
Symptoms of dry retinal degeneration include, among other things, needing a brighter light for reading, blurring and difficulty reading written texts, difficulty in adapting to low light, decreased intensity in brightness and intensity of colors, decreased ability to recognize people’s faces, and general decline in eye function at an older age.
Symptoms of wet retinal degeneration are considered to be more severe and less subtle. The disease can cause people to see straight lines as curvy or bent. It may also cause black spots in the center of vision, which will grow more and more in the absence of treatment.
It is important to understand that the symptoms may not always be the same in both eyes. It is possible that one eye will experience serious degeneration while the other eye might not experience any symptoms at all at first. In any case, if you suspect that something is wrong with your eyes – it is always better to go to a qualified ophthalmologist as soon as possible. Periodic tests and early detection can control the symptoms of the disease and in some cases, save you from blindness.
How is the diagnosis performed?
Diagnosis of retinal degeneration is done through an eye examination by an ophthalmologist or optometrist. Over the age of 50, it is recommended to get these tests done every year. The diagnosis can be made in three main ways:
Amsler Grid Test – A simple and preliminary test in which the patient looks at horizontal and vertical lines to see if they see the lines distorted.
Fluorescein angiography – After your doctor injects a colored dye into a vein in your arm the dye will travel to a highlight the blood vessels in your eyes. The doctor then examines the eye with magnifying accessories to identify leaks in blood vessels.
Optical coherence tomography – This is an optical imaging test that gives the doctor a more accurate picture of the eye and enables more efficient diagnosis of retinal changes and abnormalities.
How is retinal degeneration treated?
As noted, in most cases early diagnosis will help to adapt treatment that will delay the deterioration of the disease and in some cases will even prevent the patient from reaching a state of blindness. In order to do this, of course, it is important to ensure continuous treatment and follow-ups by a qualified ophthalmologist, but at the same time, there is still no medical treatment in the form of medications or surgery to fully cure the disease. In its wet form, fluid may be absorbed back into the blood vessels through injections of Avastin, Lucentis or Eylea every few weeks. In some cases, your doctor may also recommend laser treatment for wet retinal degeneration. The doctor will also recommend enlarging texts for reading using a magnifying glass or advanced technological aids.
Along with the conventional tools, Chinese medicine offers other ways to supplement treatment and provide a holistic, broad and effective way of delaying the disease. These are some of the factors that cause it to be effective:
Vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants – our diet has a significant impact on the functioning of body systems, and of course, also on the eyes. Studies show that in order to slow the progression of the disease, it is recommended to increase the consumption of the following substances: vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc oxide, copper oxide, lutein, and zeaxanthin.
Healthy fats – In a review of several studies conducted in 2008 at the University of Melbourne, Australia, omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish oil, seeds, and nuts, can slow retinal degeneration.
Acupuncture – Acupuncture allows better oxygen flow to the macula, thus slowing down the disease and even stopping it. The treatment allows cells damaged by macular degeneration to “wake up” and improve their functioning.
The tools available from Chinese medicine may greatly improve the functioning of eyes suffering from retinal degeneration. In order to enjoy all these benefits and prevent deterioration of vision, it is recommended to use a qualified therapist who is experienced in the treatment of eye diseases.
Written by Itay Sharaf, who treats retinal degeneration and other eye diseases through Chinese medicine