What is Macular Degeneration?
Macular Degeneration which is also known as Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD or ARMD) is a progressive eye disorder causing damage to central vision. As the name suggests, chances of this occurring increases with age.
Central vision is what enables person to see things which are straight ahead while looking straight. Peripheral vision helps to see things on the side while looking straight ahead. Loss of central vision makes tasks like reading, driving, recognizing faces extremely difficult. Macular Degeneration is one of the top three reasons for vision loss along with cataract and glaucoma.
Macular Degeneration- Causes and Risk Factors
Macular degeneration is caused by the degeneration of macula, which is in the central part of the retina. Retina, which is in the inner layer of the eye, receives the light entering the eye through the pupil and the eye lens. Retina processes the light and sends them as electric impulses to the brain through optical nerve where the perception of sight is formed. Macula which is in the central part of the retina has the maximum visual perception and is the basis for the central vision.
There are 2 types of macular degeneration namely
Dry macular degeneration which accounts for around 90% of the total cases. This is the initial stage of degeneration where yellow deposits called ‘drusen’ are formed in the macula. As these drusen accumulate, they cause a blind spot in the central vision.
Wet macular degeneration is seen in around 10% of the total cases. Here, blood vessels would grow abnormally beneath the macula which will then start leaking blood into the macula. This is a medical emergency which needs immediate doctor attention.
The main cause for drusen or blood vessels to accumulate are not fully known yet.
The risk factors for macular degeneration are
1. Age: People above 60 years are more prone to this disorder
2. Genetics: Family history also plays a key role
3. Ethnicity: Whites/Caucasians are more likely to develop this disorder
4. Alcohol and Smoking: increases the chance of macular degeneration
5. High Blood pressure and heart diseases also increases the risk
Symptoms of Macular Degeneration
Symptoms develop slowly and start appearing only when the person is well into the disease. The main symptoms are
• Distortions in sight where straight lines appear distorted
• Dark areas in the center of vision
• Difficulty in reading in normal light
• Difficulty in recognizing faces
• Printed words seem blurry
Macular Degeneration Diagnosis
Doctor would do a detailed eye exam and will use eye drops. Doctors can see if drusen is accumulated through a special instrument. Other diagnostic tests would include usage of Amsler grid, angiography (where a dye is injected through the vein to the eye and a special camera takes the pictures of the blood vessels in the eye). An Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) test may also be done which shows the cross section of the retina and whether is any change in retinal thickness.
Macular Degeneration Treatment
Currently this comes under non-reversible disorder types meaning there is no complete cure for this problem. Treatments are aimed at slowing the progress of the disease thus preventing further loss of vision. Doctors may inject anti-angiogenic drugs in the eye to stop formation of blood vessels and also suggest laser therapy to destroy affected tissues in the macula. Retinal translocation surgical procedure, which destroys the abnormal blood vessels with a laser after rotating out the macula, is also be recommended in some cases.
Ayurvedic treatment for Macular Degeneration
Ayurveda has highly effective treatment plans for age related macular degeneration. Treatment differs based on the type (dry or wet macular degeneration). Ayurveda views dry macular degeneration as a vata disorder and wet macular degeneration as a vata pitta disorder.
Treatment procedures for dry type include tharpana (where warm medicated eye is poured and retained in a herbal container over the eyes for some time), shirodhara(where warm medicated oil is poured over the head), lepanam(application of herbal paste in the eyelids), netradhara(pouring of herbal liquids over closed eye), virechanam (induced purgation to remove toxins) and nasyam (medication administered through nose to clear the channels). Treatment for wet macular degeneration include takradhara(pouring lukewarm medicated butter milk over the head) in addition to virechanam, netradhara, nasyam and virechanam.
Treatment duration will typically be between 18-21 days and cost of ayurvedic treatment for macular degeneration will be between 800-1000 USD.