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Home » Our Blog » Q&As with Dr. Kenkel regarding Macular Degeneration

Q&As with Dr. Kenkel regarding Macular Degeneration

What is macular degeneration?

Dr. Kenkel: Macular degeneration is a degeneration of the central part of the retina, which is call the macula. This is the part of the eye which gives us the ability to see details. This part of the eye allows us to read, see faces – all of our central vision is in this area. The last layer of the retina is called the epithelium, and this layer degenerates over time.

If someone has macular degeneration, will they go blind?

Dr. Kenkel: Macular degeneration does not affect the peripheral vision at all. Therefore, someone will become legally blind, but they will still be able to see a little bit peripherally. The person will not be able to watch TV, read, see facial detail, or anything to do with central vision.

What is the cause of macular degeneration (MDG)?

Dr. Kenkel: MDG is a slow degenerative process which mostly develops with age. MDG is the leading cause of blindness in patients over 55 years old. The biggest most harmful contributor to contracting MDG is blue light and UV light. So, over time the pigment of the epithelium absorbs the blue and UV light, and slowly degenerates.

MDG most often occurs after 60 years of age. They call this Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). There are other risk factors involved. The first is heredity: Family history and genetics. Being Caucasian, female, and having light eyes are all risk factors as well. Also, smoking, cardiovascular disease, having diabetes, being overweight, and lack of proper exercise also increase the person’s risk of getting AMD.

Who is most at risk for macular degeneration (MDG) and what can I do to prevent it?

Dr. Kenkel: Since the biggest most harmful contributor to contracting MDG is blue light and UV light, the best way to protect yourself is to protect your eyes from the harmful light. Consider protective eyewear like “sunscreen for the eyes”. This is extremely important outdoors as well as during prolonged use of electronic devices which emit blue light, such as cell phones, laptops, computers, tablets, iPads, and fluorescent lights. The next best way to prevent MDG is to watch your diet (less sugar, less simple carbohydrates) and exercise, as well as taking antioxidants, especially the ones in the AREDS 2 formula: vitamin C, 500 mg; vitamin E, 400 IU; 15 mg (approximately 25,000 IU vitamin A); zinc 80 mg as zinc oxide; and copper, 2 mg, as cupric oxide. (The copper is added to prevent copper-deficiency anemia, an adverse effect of high-dose zinc) Lutein, zeaxanthin, and omega-3 fatty acids are also good.

What tests do you perform to check for macular degeneration?

Dr. Kenkel: They have developed a new test called MPOD – macular pigment optical density. This test allows us to measure the density of the macular pigment. This test is similar to a bone density test. It shows us the people who are most at risk for this, and enables us to put them on supplements to slow the progression and even rebuild the pigment density. For people over 55, we have a home test which gives our patients signs to look for and preventative measures to take. This way they will be able to spot it in the earliest stages and come in for an exam immediately.

What treatments do you have for macular degeneration?

Dr. Kenkel: Although there is no cure for macular degeneration (MDG), they have proven (as well we have seen this proof ourselves with our own clients in our office) that by taking certain antioxidants we can build that pigment density back up somewhat. Specifically antioxidants: lutein and zeaxanthin, as well as omega-3 fatty acids.

They did a study called the AREDS study which used vitamin C, 500 mg; vitamin E, 400 IU; beta-carotene, 15 mg (approximately 25,000 IU vitamin A); zinc 80 mg as zinc oxide; and copper, 2 mg, as cupric oxide. (The copper was added to prevent copper-deficiency anemia, an adverse effect of high-dose zinc). This study proved dramatically that these supplements greatly reduce the risk of MDG, rebuilding the pigment as well as halting the degeneration.

Other things people with MDG need to do is: wear sunlight protection, and blue light and UV protection indoors and outdoors. If someone is a smoker, stop smoking. If someone is diabetic and / or overweight, start a diet and an exercise plan.

Does insurance cover the tests and treatments for macular degeneration?

Dr. Kenkel: Macular degeneration is a medical condition and medical insurance will cover the tests. At this point, the insurance companies are not covering the antioxidant vitamin treatment.

What do you recommend to people 40 years or older regarding macular degeneration?

Dr. Kenkel: People over 40 should be screened yearly, wear eye protection from the sun, as well as from blue light indoors (during prolonged use of electronic devices which emit blue light, such as cell phones, laptops, computers, tablets, iPads, fluorescent lights). The next best way to prevent MDG is to watch your diet (less sugar, less simple carbohydrates) and exercise, as well as taking antioxidants, especially the ones in the AREDS 2 formula: vitamin C, 500 mg; vitamin E, 400 IU; 15 mg (approximately 25,000 IU vitamin A); zinc 80 mg as zinc oxide; and copper, 2 mg, as cupric oxide. (The copper is added to prevent copper-deficiency anemia, an adverse effect of high-dose zinc). Lutein, zeaxanthin, and omega-3 fatty acids are also good.

Are there different types of macular degeneration?

Dr. Kenkel: Dry macular degeneration and wet macular degeneration. With wet MDG, new blood vessels form in the eye which can swell up and bleed, and is considered an emergency situation that needs immediate treatment. The most common symptom of wet macular degeneration is distorted vision.