Home > Blog > Eye Health > A Brief Outline of America’s Leading Cause of Vision Loss: Macular Degeneration

A Brief Outline of America’s Leading Cause of Vision Loss: Macular Degeneration

An image of an older woman rubbing her eyes and holding her glassesOver 10 million Americans are affected by macular degeneration, and it is the leading cause of vision loss, even more than the number of people affected by glaucoma and cataracts combined. It affects the elderly, usually those 60 years of age and above. Other risk factors include being female, smoking, exposure to UV light, a family history of the disease, and being Caucasian.

Type of Macular Degeneration

There are two types of macular degeneration. They are called wet and dry macular degeneration, both affecting the macula. The macula is the central area of the retina, in the back of the eye and on the inside, where images are recorded and then sent to the brain through the optic nerve.

The dry type is more common, and it happens when small deposits of fat form and start to break down the retinal tissue. The wet type, though less common, is the type that causes the majority of vision loss, and it happens when abnormal blood vessels start to form, changing the shape of the retina and causing damage there.

Symptoms of Macular Degeneration

Because the macula is responsible for your central vision, your ability to see details, and your ability to read, you can imagine what a deterioration there would lead to. Symptoms of the macular degeneration include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Difficulty seeing details
  • A dark spot in the central visual field
  • Colors appearing more faded than before
  • The illusion that straight lines are wavy or curved
  • The illusion that objects are smaller than their actual size

These symptoms are common at the more progressive stage of the condition, while the initial stage is often asymptomatic and only detectable after a thorough examination. In the early stages of macular degeneration, an eye exam can reveal the beginning of the formation of small deposits on the retina and possibly a change in the color of the retina. Thankfully, for many people, there is no progression of the disease beyond this point and so they do not experience the symptoms.

Although macular degeneration is considered incurable, there are measures you can take to either prevent it or slow down its progression. The most important of which is to avoid some of the risk factors that are entirely under your control, such as smoking and UV light exposure.

Eye Health and NEM Stress Response

It is important to understand that often there are possible links between eye health and your NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response, as well as adrenal fatigue, as they can all affect each other.

The NEM is your body’s global response to stress, and it is composed of six circuits: The Hormone, Bioenergetics, the Neuroaffect, the Cardionomic, the Inflammation, and the Detoxification circuits. Your adrenal glands are part of the Hormone circuit, and they are your NEM’s first line of defense against stress. And although they are made to withstand acute stress from time to time, they can become exhausted when faced with chronic stress.

Preventing and Slowing Down Macular Degeneration

Chronic stress can lead to Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS) and the dysregulation of the NEM. Symptoms of AFS include fatigue, weight gain, insomnia, brain fog, anxiety, mild depression, lowered immunity, low libido, PMS, infertility, hair loss, blood sugar imbalance, heart palpitations, issues with blood pressure, food, and drug sensitivities, and an inability to handle stress.
An image of an older woman getting her vitals checked by a young female nurse
Of these, the symptoms that can aggravate macular degeneration are weight gain, issues with blood pressure, and blood sugar imbalance.

It is therefore vital to address these issues if you want to prevent or slow down the degeneration of your macula. The good news is that many of the strategies for recovering from AFS and NEM dysregulation are the same strategies that can help with your eye health. And they include the following top three recommendations:

  1. Eat a Healthy Diet The adrenal fatigue diet is the cornerstone of AFS recovery. It is also exactly the kind of diet that can protect your eyes from deterioration because this diet is 1) anti-inflammatory, 2) rich in antioxidants that can fight oxidative stress, 3) it is nutrient dense, and 4) it can help you reach and maintain your ideal weight. Remember, obesity and cardiovascular disease are two of the main risk factors in macular degeneration, and both of them are highly dependent on the food you eat.

    The other risk factors that diet can play a big role are blood sugar and blood pressure levels. These two are also impacted by cortisol, which is your body’s main anti-stress hormone, and it is produced by your adrenal glands. So healthy adrenals make for balanced cortisol levels, which makes for better blood sugar and blood pressure control.

  2. Get Enough Exercise Another cornerstone of good health is exercise. It helps you maintain a healthy weight, gives you a boost in energy, improves your circulation, and strengthens your body overall – all of which are important for macular degeneration and your general eye health.

    But if you have AFS, especially the more advanced stages of it, you will need to start slowly and gently. Adrenal breathing and adrenal yoga exercises are safe while you are recovering, and then you can work up to more moderate forms of exercise.

  3. Get the Right Nutrients One of the ways to reduce the chances of getting macular degeneration is to try to get the following nutrients from your diet as much as possible, and when needed, you can use supplements to fill in the gaps:
    • Omega-3 fatty acids – important for eye and brain health, these can be found in abundance in fish, especially sardines, herring, salmon, and mackerel. Try to get wild-caught when possible. Fish oil supplements are also very useful.
    • Vitamin C – one of the most powerful antioxidants there are, and essential for adrenal fatigue recovery. Although the RDA can be easily met through foods such as citrus fruits and dark leafy greens, supplementing may be very helpful in early AFS recovery.
    • Vitamin D – supports the nervous system and brain, as well as immunity. Taking a D3 supplement regularly may be better than trying to get regular sun if you have macular degeneration so that you can limit UV light exposure.
    • An image of various supplements in a small pile with a sprig of a green herb on topVitamin E – another very powerful antioxidant, and excellent for maintaining good eye health. You can get it from nuts, seeds, and dark, leafy greens.
    • Zinc – important for digestion, immunity, and memory, and you can get it from nuts, seeds, legumes, and meat.
    • Lutein and zeaxanthin – these are substances called carotenoids that act as antioxidants, helping to protect your eyes from blue wavelengths. You can get them from leafy green vegetables and yellow vegetables.

Of course, there is no way to completely prevent any disease, like macular degeneration because some risk factors are genetic. All you can do is try your best with what is under your control without stressing too much about the outcome.

© Copyright 2020 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Lam's Key Question

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss in the elderly, and although it is deemed incurable, there are preventative measures you can take to lower your chances of getting it. Read about our top three recommendations and implement them immediately.

Are You Ready to Start Your
Adrenal Fatigue Recovery Journey?