Can I Prevent Age-related Macular Degeneration?

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      These illustrations show the progress of how a person with AMD can experience the decline in vision.      

 AMD (Age-related Macular Degeneration) is quite a common condition .

The macula is located at the back of the eye and is the most sensitive part of the retina. When it is damaged the centre of your field of view may appear blurry, distorted or dark.

I MUST EMPHASISE THAT IT IS THE CENTRAL VISION THAT IS AFFECTED AND PROVIDED THAT YOU HAVE NO OTHER EYE CONDITIONS YOU SHOULD NOT GO COMPLETELY BLIND.

Ageing itself can cause damage, and there are two types of AMD commonly known as Wet or Dry.

The dry type is slow advancing, and many people will have it for some time before they notice there is something amiss.

The first signs are that you may find yourself forever cleaning your glasses. Or you may simply put it down to needing new glasses or that you are putting poor sight down to part of the ageing process and ignore it. It is mostly picked up when you have an eye test. Generally speaking, it begins at the age of around 50, but since nothing happens at any certain age, that is not a given fact.

Dry MD can slowly develop and once diagnosed, it can be monitored and you can change your diet and lifestyle to help slow the process down.

However, 1 out of 10 cases develops into Wet MD and can have more serious implications. Although with wet MD there are injections to slow the process down, there is still no guarantee that it will work.

Let me tell you my story.

Nearly three years ago during a regular annual eye test, the Optician showed me the photos of the back of my eyes, and I could see white spots. (Drusen)  He explained that these are signs of Macular Degeneration.

I felt quite alarmed because my Mother has it and I have seen her struggling over many years. But this optician told me about a nutritional supplement that would help to slow up the development. We shall discuss that supplement in the group that I hope to start on Facebook.

I already knew of a Guild in Plymouth which helped people with vision and hearing difficulties, so I went along and found a lot of information about the condition and also what aids there were available.

They also told me about Plymouth University having a department where you could go and have regular examinations and also be a guinea pig for students learning Ophthalmology. Not only that but if there was a serious development, they could contact the Eye Infirmary direct and I would not have to go through my GP.

I rather liked that idea, so I went. And for the past two years I have enjoyed talking to the tutors and students and finding a lot of information. They also have a scanner there, and it was fun to see the back of my eye laid out for interpretation.

They have been impressed with my tenacity and resilience to the situation, and how I stay so positive. But I must admit to being quite alarmed at times when I notice more severe symptoms such as distortion, even to the extent of seeing people’s head’s shaped like ET.

I have a couple of other issues with my eyes, such as double vision which manifests when I am tired and with the added complication of the 6th nerve damage. So, eleven years ago it stopped me from driving. Although I had the problem all my life, as I got older I could not control it so well. But that is another story.

The 6th Nerve damage was caused by the forceps at birth. Resulting in what is commonly called a lazy eye. So I am mostly reliant on my left eye, I often describe it as “I can see all right, but it feels like the brain will not tell me what it is I am seeing.”

Because of the problems with my right eye, the Eye Infirmary are keeping up regular monthly checks. If I lose the vision in that eye, I will be in trouble.

Last July I went along to the University because although the regular eye test at the opticians resulted in new glasses, I was still struggling to see. They did a scan and found that it had developed into Wet MD.

Wet MD is where abnormal blood vessels grow underneath the retina, and these vessels can leak fluid and blood, which can lead to swelling and damage of the macula.

The University fast-tracked an appointment for me at the Eye Infirmary (What a horrible name)

After numerous tests, the EI are monitoring me regularly because when it reaches a critical point, they can start with injections into the eye, which will slow up the progress.

The latest development is that peoples faces are distorted and have taken on a perculiar appearance. I have adjusted my own image here so that you can see what I am seeing. me-now-2016Distortion

 

 

 

You can read in a previous blog how this affects my everyday living.

http://www.patriciacherrylifecoach.com/experience-macular-degeneration/

Some people have claimed that there is a cure, but I have yet to come across any proven cures. The EI and the University certainly have not found any.

But I was asked the other day about whether MD can be prevented.

It is best to start as early as possible to make lifestyle changes. 

Although none of us can guarantee to prevent any disease in our lives, there are things that you can do to strengthen your chances of not getting it. Or giving your body a better chance to deal with any disease at all.

It is no surprise to me that the answer is the same as with many other diseases of the Western world, such as obesity, cancer, Type 2 diabetes, and other modern diseases.

  • Avoid Smoking
  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat a healthy diet rich in green leafy vegetables and fish.

I do all of these things and also take a special supplement called Macushield.

I am considering starting the Facebook group for this condition, both in helping people to try and prevent it and how to deal with it.

Would you please comment either on this blog or in the comments on Social Media if you would like to join us.

There are plenty of MD Facebook groups in the US, but because our health care systems are different in the UK, I think that it will be of benefit to many.

Also, of course, the nature of the condition prevents people from reading on Facebook, and I suspect that many don’t get the opportunity or are not aware of the advantages of it.

But it may be that you have a relative or friend that you could help by belonging to the group.

Would you please share this, because I would like as many people as possible to benefit from a good Facebook group on AMD.

The picture below is the scene without any eye problems!

Meadow

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Experiencing Macular Degeneration.

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I thought I would write about Macular Degeneration from the point of view (pardon the pun) of someone who is experiencing it.

This is a condition where the Macula at the back of the eye, degenerates with ageing. People who have the condition lose their central vision.

This results in loss of visual acuity and/or losing the ability to use contrast.

Because the problem is with the central vision, people may not be able to see other people’s features.

People who have this condition can fall into various categories, they may be extremely challenged and have very poor sight, or they may be just struggling to see what people without the condition can see and take for granted.

People, in general, do not understand this condition; I used to be one of them, and wonder why the sufferer (I hate that word but cannot think of a better one to use) can see some things, but not others.

Let me give you an example. I was in a store the other day looking for a warm cardigan. The cardigan I wanted was hung fairly high, and I could not see the sizes. So I asked the assistant for some help because I have a vision problem.

She asked what size I wanted, passed it down and walked away. I managed to find what I wanted eventually. But I had to keep lifting the various cardigans down because I could not see the sizes. This is to do with contrast. The sizes on the labels were in such small print that I could not see them. The sizes on the hangers were yellow against brown. NO CONTRAST.

When I went to the counter to pay, the unhelpful assistant was standing watching. The assistant behind the till asked if I wanted a bag, and when I looked down there was a five pence piece on the floor so I joked that I would have a bag as the five pence for it had just been supplied, and I picked it up.

The other Assistant, remarked, “Your sight can’t be that bad then if you can see that!”

I don’t know about you, but I hate having to be defensive. So I tried very patiently to explain that there are some things that I can see and others I can’t, and the reason why I could see the silver five pence piece was that it contrasted well with the dark carpet on the floor.

This event is what prompted me to write this. In the group that I attend for MD we are very aware of people’s ignorance about this condition, and because people are living longer now and it is a degenerative condition, there are many more of us cropping who have the condition.

You may see people, like me, who walk around using a symbol cane. There are three types of canes for sight and vision problems.

Most of you will know about the regular white cane or walking stick, which has been in use for generations.

Then there is a cane with black and red stripes, which is for people with sight and hearing problems.

The cane that I use and is coming into popular use is a Symbol cane, or Identity cane.symbol-canesymbol-cane-folded It is to alert the public that I have a vision problem and to be patient if I seem to be slow or getting in the way, or I am asking for help.

This simple little device brings me more understanding and patience from people. Once they can see that there is a problem, because of my symbol cane, most people are kind.

But there are many people who are confused, which I have already mentioned.

The problem caused by lack of contrast manifests itself in a few ways. There is one example above. in my story about the cardigan hunt.

I can see letters as long as they are in good background and lettering colours.

I can see, black against white or yellow or pale colours.

But I cannot see lettering on two similar colours, for example; white on blue or green or pale colours, or black on red, brown on yellow, and horror of horrors two shades of the same colour.

A menu in a Restaurant I visited recently was in lilac lettering on a beige card. I could not see a thing! Even though compared to many I have good sight.

Contrast is also important for steps, bus and transport platforms, and edges of pavements. We already use contrast in our everyday lives for these things because of health and safety for everybody.

For people with MD, good contrast can be essential.

It may be worth while to consider that when you are designing an app or a website for example.

A report by the BBC from 2011 says that there are over 60,000 people in Britain with the condition and the numbers are predicted to rise.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-12736988

The condition is not curable, but there are things that you can do to help avoid it while you are younger. Also there are supplements that you can take to help control the speed that it takes control of your sight.

Once again good nutrition is vital http://www.allaboutvision.com/conditions/amd-prevention.htm  and supplements which contain Meso-Zeaxanthin as well as Lutein, Zeaxanthin, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Zinc and copper.

You can obtain supplements claiming to be for your eyes, but the best ones contain the extra Meso-Zeaxanthin.

Eat plenty of green vegetables which contain Lutein.

I recently heard an eye consultant claim once again that it is a waste of money taking supplements for MD, because if you eat a good diet, that should be enough.

But the nutritionists among us will agree with me, that the question is “How many people bother with a good diet?” Secondly, by the time food reaches us, how many nutrients have seeped out, if they were there in the first place with the depleted soils of the twenty first century?

Other contributing factors, as well as the genetic one, are the same as for other conditions, smoking, obesity and lack of exercise. My contributing factors were smoking for thirty years, and the genetic one.

I tried to think of a better word than sufferer earlier, because I don’t see myself as a “Sufferer” but as someone who is experiencing the condition. However, it would sound crazy to go around saying “I’m experiencing the condition of Macular Degeneration!”

So please don’t misunderstand and think that I am asking for sympathy, I am simply letting you all know what MD is and what people “Experience” with it.

So, if you see people with a white symbol stick, yet you are wondering why they seem to be able to see, I hope that this information will help you to understand a bit more and shed light on the confusion.

Comments are welcome.

 

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