Macular degeneration – Symptoms and foods to eat and avoid
Macular degeneration – Symptoms and foods to eat and avoid

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), also known as macular degeneration, is an eye condition caused due to the deterioration of the macula, a small area in the retina. Fortunately, food plays a vital role in preventing and slowing down the progression of the condition. Let’s take a look at the common symptoms of the condition and what one must include and avoid in their meal regimen to manage these symptoms.

Early signs of macular degeneration

These are the common signs of macular degeneration:

Blurry vision
One may experience vision that is blurry or distorted. Dark or blurry areas may appear in the center of the vision caused by the thinning of the macula.

Sensitivity to contrast
As the condition progresses, one may find it difficult to distinguish between different textures and colors. That said, this symptom is not as common in patients with macular degeneration.

Difficulty adjusting to changes in light levels
One may find it difficult to adjust their eyes when they move from a well-lighted room to a poorly-lighted room and vice versa, leading to blackouts.

Foods to include
One must include these foods in their meal regimen to help manage or prevent macular degeneration:

Colorful vegetables
Studies have shown that eating colorful and leafy vegetables, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli, squash, spinach, and kale, can help prevent or reduce the effects of macular degeneration. Colorful veggies contain an antioxidant called carotenoids (lutein and zeaxanthin) that helps enhance the protective pigment around the macula, thus preventing the condition. One must include at least one of these vegetables in every meal, every day, as the body cannot produce lutein or zeaxanthin by itself.

Vitamin C is one of the most beneficial nutrients for the human eye. It helps strengthen the blood vessels in the eyes and slow down the progression of macular degeneration. Along with vitamin C, one must also consume foods rich in beta carotene and zinc, as they help enhance the effects of vitamin C. Fruits like oranges, lemons, grapefruit, strawberries, peaches, and mangoes are good sources of these essential vitamins and nutrients.

Seeds and nuts
Nuts and seeds are a storehouse of nutrients. They contain healthy fats, vitamins, fiber, proteins, antioxidants, and minerals, all of which are beneficial to the body. These tiny nutrient-rich foods help prevent heart disease, oxidative stress, inflammation, and eye-related problems like macular degeneration. One can incorporate seeds like flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and nuts like walnuts and almonds in their meals every day.

Whole grains and legumes
Whole grains, packed with vitamins, fiber, and minerals, are an excellent option for those dealing with macular degeneration. Having whole grains such as whole wheat, quinoa, and oats increases energy levels in the body and helps manage blood sugar. Similarly, legumes are rich in fiber, protein, and nutrients, all of which are beneficial to the eyes. Add legumes like peanuts or chickpeas in soups and salads, or consume legume-based foods like hummus and peanut butter to improve eye health.

Healthy fats
Omega-3 fatty acids reduce clogging in the blood cells and lower bad cholesterol levels in the body, both of which are linked to AMD. They also help reduce inflammation in the body. Consuming food rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel daily helps lower the risk of the condition. One must also include olive oil in their food, as it contains antioxidants and phenolic compounds that are healthy for the eyes. Drizzle olive oil on salads, use it for baking vegetables, or add it to stir-fried vegetables and preparations for a healthier touch.

High amounts of salt or sugar in the food may aggravate symptoms of AMD. Therefore, one must cut down on salt and sugar and opt for healthier alternatives, such as dried or fresh herbs and spices, for added flavor. Herbs and spices contain various nutrients that improve overall health while making the food more delicious.

Foods to avoid
Certain foods aggravate the symptoms of AMD. Avoid these foods to manage and improve the condition.

Processed foods
Although burgers, fries, chips, and cakes may seem appealing, they aren’t the best choice for those with macular degeneration. They contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which can lead to plaque buildup in the arteries of the eyes, depriving them of nutrient-rich blood.

Unhealthy fats
Eating foods containing large amounts of oil may lead to a higher risk of AMD. Also, one must steer clear of hydrogenated fats like coconut or palm oil, as they worsen the condition. Instead, one must consume healthier alternatives like flaxseed, olive, or canola oil.

High-fat dairy products
Dairy products are healthy in moderation, but too much high-fat dairy can cause problems for those with AMD. This is because dairy can cause inflammation, leading to puffiness and swelling. One should also eat whole eggs in moderation.

Medications for macular degeneration
Here are a few medications that are effective for managing AMD. One must talk to their doctor before taking any medication or beginning any kind of treatment.

Bevacizumab (Avastin®)
Bevacizumab is a type of medication (injection) that is administered to those with this condition. It blocks the production of abnormal blood vessels and provides relief to those with AMD. Proper use of the medication helps improve vision significantly.

Ranibizumab (Lucentis®)
This medication is injected into the eye to reduce the growth of abnormal cells and leakages caused by these cells. Ranibizumab may cause side effects like dry eyes, sore throat, cough, or joint pain. In rare cases, it may also increase one’s risk of developing an eye condition called endophthalmitis.

Aflibercept (EYLEA®)
This medication can be used alone or in combination with other medicines to manage symptoms of AMD. It may cause side effects like discomfort in the eyes, blurred vision, or mild pain in the eyes. If these side effects worsen or persist, one must seek medical help immediately.

Brolucizumab (Beovu)
Beovu is an FDA-approved medication used to treat AMD. It works by blocking the abnormal blood cells in the body and improving vision. The injection is administered monthly.

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