Macular degeneration (AMD), colloquially called calcifications of the eye, is a widespread condition that affects millions of people worldwide. Around 30% of the population over the age of 74 suffer from AMD (NHI, 2022), and knowledge of the condition is the key to early detection and treatment.
This article will discuss what AMD is, risk factors and causes, symptoms, traditional and alternative treatment methods, and not least the importance of early detection. Whether you yourself are worried about your vision or want information as a carer, we hope this guide gives you insight and security.
What is AMD?
The retina, especially the macula, is essential for sharp vision. Among other things, the macula ensures that you can see fine details in things right in front of you, recognize faces, read and drive. AMD is a condition where the area of sharp vision in the eye (the macula) is damaged and impairs vision.
There are two main types of macular degeneration: dry (atrophic) and wet (exudative). The dry form is most common. Dry AMD is the accumulation of waste substances that settle as small, yellow spots around the macula and impair acuity. Development is very slow. The wet form is more rare, but all the more serious. Wet AMD is abnormal blood vessel growth at the back of the eye, which leaks fluid into the area and impairs acuity. This form develops relatively quickly.
Dry AMD can in some cases progress to wet AMD. There is also a rare form of AMD linked to genetic factors.
Causes and risk factors
There is no concrete single factor that can explain the disease AMD. The reason is multifactorial.
Pigment cells and light-sensitive cells will normally be gradually destroyed with age and lead to visual impairment. With age, the blood vessels also become stiffer and more fragile, and circulation weakens. It is easier for waste substances to accumulate in the retina and bleeding to occur. It has been seen that the disease affects smokers to a greater extent than non-smokers. It is connected to the fact that smoking causes blood vessels to contract and reduce circulation, which in turn leads to a reduced supply of nutrients to the eyes. Diet and exercise also play an important role. High intake of sugar can cause inflammation, which can help damage the cells and vision.
Younger people are less often affected by AMD. Where it occurs, it has been seen in connection with genetics, as well as early and prolonged exposure of the eyes to sunlight. Age, smoking, lifestyle, sunlight and genetics are important causative factors for the development of AMD. Understanding these factors is the key to both prevention and treatment.
Symptoms and the importance of early detection
The first signs of AMD are blurred vision, letters that "fall out" when you read, colors that become more blurred than before and straight lines that get a "bulk" on them. These are symptoms that the area of sharp vision in the eye (macula) is damaged. If you experience one or more of these symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible in order to have a thorough eye examination and initiate measures. The earlier the disease is detected, the greater the opportunity to stagnate development and take care of eye health and vision.
As mentioned, dry AMD can in some cases develop into wet AMD. If you have been diagnosed with dry AMD, it may be a good idea to carry out a daily test to detect this before it is too late. The Amsler Grid is a simple test you can do at home. You can find the test by clicking here - in the link you will also find a video on how to do the test. Remember, contact your eye doctor if you notice any changes.
Traditional treatment methods
Injections into the eye and the use of drugs are common forms of treatment for wet AMD. Regular follow-up with an ophthalmologist is necessary for effective treatment and control of progression.
As of today, no specific treatment is offered for dry AMD, other than recommendations for lifestyle changes and adaptations at home.
Alternative treatment methods
Newer methods such as Valeda light therapy and MicroStim microcurrent therapy are showing promising results. These non-invasive methods (techniques that do not pierce or cut the skin/tissue) stimulate the cells of the retina and can help slow the progression of AMD, both the dry and wet form.
Valeda light therapy is a safe method based on light waves that actively affect the retina. The light waves penetrate the surface of the eye without damaging the eye, and are absorbed by the photoreceptors in the retina and increase blood flow in and around the eyes. In addition, the cells in the retina are stimulated to produce more energy and release growth factors that promote cell protection and regeneration. This can help slow AMD's progression. The Valeda therapy can also help reduce retinal inflammation, which is often part of AMD's pathology. This can help to further reduce damage to visual cells.
The Valeda and light therapy approach has shown promise in slowing the progression of AMD and improving vision in some patients. It is a gentle and comfortable alternative to more invasive (stabbing/cutting into skin/tissue) treatment methods.
Valeda light treatment is offered at Helsetilskud AS (Norway)
MicroStim - heal your eyes with micro-current
MicroStim is a device that emits electrical signals. These signals improve circulation, oxygen uptake and nutrient supply to the retina. In short, electrodes (toads) are placed over the eyes. A specially adapted program emits periodic pulses of current in precise amounts and carefully controlled strength. Microcurrent stimulation can help increase the supply of nutrients and activate energy production (ATP) inside the cells. Research has suggested that microcurrent stimulation can increase cells' ability to get rid of waste products. This can help slow AMD's progression.
Acupuncture can be an appropriate complementary treatment method for AMD. Reduced circulation and accumulation of waste substances are underlying causes for the development and progression of ADM. Acupuncture affects and increases blood flow in and to the eyes. In the wake of this, the supply of nutrients increases and waste substances are removed. Acupuncture can therefore be an important contributor to preventing and limiting the development of AMD.
Acupuncture in combination with microcurrent treatment and/or Valeda light treatment can be particularly beneficial for those seeking gentle and complementary approaches.
We have a partnership with the eye hospital in Beijing. Where we have also had patients travel to.
What can you do yourself? Lifestyle changes and dietary supplements
Doing something active with factors that affect the eyes, blood vessels and circulation can help slow disease progression. Quitting smoking, wearing sunglasses, eating healthy and staying in good physical shape are important lifestyle changes and adaptations you can make yourself that can help prevent and slow down the development of AMD.
Why are sunglasses important, you might be thinking? Sunlight (ultraviolet light) is harmful to the eye. It has been observed by ophthalmologists that many patients with AMD have spent a lot of time in ski resorts and are happy to sunbathe. Sunglasses with a UV filter will protect the eyes from the risk of damage caused by sunlight and will therefore be cheap insurance and a good preventive measure for eye health.
In general, a balanced and varied diet consisting of colorful vegetables, low sugar intake and foods rich in omega 3 will be good for eye health. Dietary supplements such as Ophtamin-20 can be a valuable additional source. You can read more about the product here.
An inspiring patient story
Have been given permission to share the story of an eye patient. The name is anonymised.
Ove, an 80-year-old man with AMD, contacted us when he noticed that his vision had deteriorated since he was diagnosed 3 years earlier. Reading had become a great challenge and his dark vision had become poor. Opticians measured his vision at 50%. This hampered Ove's everyday life and reduced his quality of life. As there is no traditional treatment for dry AMD, Ove wanted to try alternative approaches to help his visual health. After 6 weeks of acupuncture and microcurrent treatment, the optician measured that his vision had increased to 90%. Ove experienced this as very positive.
More details about the course of treatment. For the first 14 days, intensive daily treatment consisting of acupuncture 2 times and microcurrent treatment 4 times was given. Ove gave feedback that after the first week he experienced seeing things more clearly. After the second week, he reported that he could see better and that reading was actually possible. For the next 4 weeks, the treatment was stepped down to 2 times per week. After a total of 6 weeks of treatment with acupuncture and microcurrent, Ove went to his optician to measure his vision. Now the optician measured his vision at 90%, which he was quite surprised by. Ove purchased his own MicroStim, which he uses daily at home. He has continued with acupuncture once every 14 days, for maintenance. As of today, the sight is still 90%.
This case illustrates how early intervention and the combination of different treatment methods can make a positive contribution to eye health.
In the fight against macular degeneration (AMD), knowledge and early detection are the keys to preserving vision. As this article has explored, AMD is a widespread condition with significant consequences for vision, particularly among older people. The two main types, dry and wet AMD, require different approaches, and understanding the causes and risk factors is crucial for prevention and treatment.
Traditional treatment methods such as injections and drugs play an important role in managing wet AMD, while for dry AMD lifestyle changes and adaptations at home are often the only measures available.
This article has also presented alternative treatment methods such as Valeda light therapy, MicroStim microcurrent therapy and acupuncture, which offer hope and promising results in slowing AMD's progression. These non-invasive approaches provide patients with comfortable alternatives to more traditional treatment methods.
An inspiring example was shared, where a patient experienced significant improvement in vision through a combination of acupuncture and microcurrent therapy. This emphasizes the importance of early intervention and a holistic approach to preserving vision.
In conclusion, it is clear that information, awareness and action are our best tools in the fight against AMD. Whether it is through traditional or in combination with alternative methods, or by implementing lifestyle changes, it is crucial to be proactive in protecting eye health. We hope this article has been a useful resource and encourages everyone to take responsibility for their vision and seek help at the first signs of macular degeneration. Eye health is valuable, and with the right knowledge and action we can all contribute to maintaining clear and sharp vision throughout life.
Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.