Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss
for adults over 60, affecting as many as 15 million Americans. Its victims
live with a large blurry or blind spot at the center of their field of
vision, making basic everyday activities—reading, driving, navigating
“AMD leaves black holes at the center of your vision and steals your
ability to see fine detail and colors. However, early detection and treatment
can help prevent vision loss,” BCH retina specialist
Dr. Geeta Lalwani told a crowd of nearly 200 people during a free health lecture held on
April 13 in Boulder.
“The beginning stage of AMD often has no symptoms, which is why regular
exams are so important. A comprehensive dilated eye exam is the only way
to detect AMD,” she added.
Types of AMD and Treatments
According to Dr. Lalwani, there are two types of AMD: dry (atrophic) and
“Most AMD starts as the dry type and in 10 to 20 percent of sufferers,
it progresses to the wet type. In other words, when you have wet AMD,
you also have dry AMD,” she explained.
With the wet type, leaky blood vessels grow under the retina and vision
loss can be rapid. “If wet macular degeneration is detected, medications
can be injected into the eye to slow the leakage and improve vision,”
Dr. Lalwani said.
Dry AMD destroys tissue in the center of the retina. Although currently
there is no cure for dry AMD, and any loss of vision cannot be restored,
in the coming years there will likely be treatments for this type of AMD.
Ways to Lower Your Risk
Dr. Lalwani said there are things you can do to lower your risk of getting
the disease and possibly slow down its progression.
Research shows that AMD occurs less often in people who avoid smoking,
engage in regular exercise and eat nutritious foods.
“Adherence to a Mediterranean diet – which is a diet high in
fruits and vegetables – has been associated with lower prevalence
of early AMD. Dark green, leafy vegetables are particularly helpful,”
she said. “Basically, what’s good for your heart is also good
for your eyes.”
Moreover, people who eat fish three times a week have a lower incidence
of AMD, and those who eat a lot of saturated fats have a higher risk.
Nutritional Supplements to Slow Vision Loss
Dr. Lalwani also explained that a special combination of vitamins and minerals
can potentially slow down the disease’s progression.
She said that a large clinical trial conducted by the National Eye Institute
(NEI) called AREDS, which stands for Age-Related Eye Disease Study, found
that a special formula of nutritional supplements could slow the progression
of macular degeneration. This formula was shown to reduce AMD patients'
risk of progressing to the advanced form of AMD by about 25 percent over
a five-year period.
“The AREDS formula included beta carotene, which was later found
to be associated with higher lung cancer rates in smokers. In a follow-up
study, called AREDS2, researchers examined the formula without beta carotene,
replacing it with the nutrients lutein and zeaxanthin and lowering the
zinc content. The updated formula worked just as well and completely replaced
the previous formula,” Dr. Lalwani said.
According to the NEI, the AREDS2 follow-up study found that taking the
following formulation has a persistent benefit for reducing the risk of
- Lutein (10mg)
- Zeaxanthin (2mg)
- Vitamin C (500mg)
- Vitamin E (400IU)
- Zinc (80mg)
- Copper (2mg)
If you wish to be screened or treated for AMD, schedule an appointment with
Dr. Geeta Lalwani by calling