Macular Degeneration Research News: Summer 2020
In This Issue...
- Top Four Food Groups for Eye Health
- President’s Corner
- Coronavirus and Macular Degeneration: What We Know so Far
- The Importance of Visiting Your Eye Doctor Regularly
- How to Make the Most of Your Eye Doctor's Appointment
- Potential Medications for Dry Macular Degeneration
- Important Update: Charitable Giving and COVID-19
Top Four Food Groups For Eye Health
Researchers are discovering that eye health isn’t just a matter of genes or “good luck.” While genetic factors do play a role, several large epidemiological studies confirm the importance of lifestyle choices, including healthy eating. What follows are four essential food groups that have been shown to decrease the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Fruits and Vegetables
Protection for your eyes is most likely provided by antioxidants in fruits and veggies. Age-related macular degeneration is thought to be caused, in part, by oxidative damage, and fruits and veggies provide antioxidants that our bodies cannot synthesize. Among these, lutein and zeaxanthin are particularly protective. These carotenoids, related to vitamin A, are concentrated in the macula. Foods that are rich in lutein and zeaxanthin include spinach, kale, collard greens, yellow/orange peppers, and yellow corn.
Eating fatty fish, like salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines, that include a wealth of omega-3 fatty acids also helps lower the risk of AMD. Omega-3 fatty acids are rich in docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is important for eye health and visual function—especially for people with dry eye syndrome.
Nuts, seeds (including flax and chia seeds), and dark, leafy greens are alternative sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Unfortunately, omega-3 fatty acid vitamin supplements do not provide eye protection.
Foods With B Vitamins
Higher levels of B vitamins may lower your risk of developing AMD. Bananas, chicken, beans, potatoes, fish, liver, and pork are high in vitamin B6, while dairy, eggs, poultry, and shellfish are high in B12. While meat is generally a good source of B vitamins, red meat may increase your risk of AMD because it is higher in iron, which can accumulate in the retina and increase oxidative stress.
Nuts also contain omega-3oils, (especially walnuts) and some evidence suggests they may decrease AMD risk. However, nuts also have lots of calories, so it’s best to limit the amount to no more than about 1/4 cup a day.
Additionally, higher body weight is a risk factor for AMD, as is higher systemic inflammation, which can also exacerbate arthritis. Weight and inflammation can be reduced by following a nutrient-rich, lower-calorie diet. This is likely to result not only in lower AMD risk, but also better overall health.
Learn more about MDR-funded research on healthy diets that may reduce your risk of AMD at brightfocus.org/eyehealthyfoods.
When it comes to macular degeneration, there is no such thing as a pause button. The needs of people with this sight-robbing disease continue.
That’s why Macular Degeneration Research remains committed to advancing the most promising, innovative scientific research worldwide. Now, more than ever, the importance of quality scientific research is abundantly clear!
Our dedicated researchers are continuing their work to prevent, treat, and slow the progression of macular degeneration, even as many of them lend their expertise to combat the pandemic in their own communities.
I wish you and your loved ones good health in these challenging times, and I thank you for helping us continue moving closer to a cure.
Coronavirus and Macular Degeneration: What We Know So Far
The current understanding of COVID-19 indicates that it does not pose a significant danger to the eyes. Studies worldwide have shown that a small number of COVID-19 patients developed conjunctivitis or a surface inflammation of the eye that does not affect the retina. To date, there have been no reports of age-related macular degeneration being worsened or triggered by the coronavirus.
However, it remains possible that a relationship between COVID-19 and a worsening of macular degeneration could ultimately emerge. While there is no data for that at this time, people with macular degeneration should continue to exercise caution when out in public to protect their health.
For key resources that may be helpful during this pandemic, please visit: brightfocus.org/MDRcovid.
The Importance of Visiting Your Eye Doctor Regularly
One of the biggest tragedies of macular degeneration is that people often take their eye health for granted, neglecting routine doctor visits, and preventive care until something severe happens. “The problem is that these issues are often difficult to reverse once they’ve occurred,” says Avnish A. Deobhakta, MD, an ophthalmologist and assistant professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. “Sometimes these patients are facing permanent vision loss. But if the disease had been identified earlier, it may have been possible to reduce its severity or manage it more effectively.”
That’s why Macular Degeneration Research is dedicated not only to funding the most promising research that leads to new understanding, better treatments, and—one day—a cure, but also providing the public with sight-saving information. And one of the simplest things people can do to protect their vision is to schedule regular appointments with an eye doctor. When making your next appointment, please ask if there are any COVID-19 related changes in the office that you need to know about before your visit.
How To Make The Most Of Your Doctor Appointment
There are a number of steps you should take when visiting your eye doctor:
- First, if you’re going to address a specific condition, ask how many patients your physician sees with that same condition. It’s better to see someone
- Second, be certain to bring a thorough list of your medications, including pills, topical creams, eye drops, supplements, etc. Many over-the-counter items, such as melatonin or grapefruit juice, can interfere with prescribed medications.
- Third, if this is your first time with the physician, make sure you have your medical records with you.
- Finally, make your appointment for a time that you typically feel your best. If you’re a morning person, go early. If it takes you a few hours to wake up, don’t make your appointment until the afternoon.
Please share this newsletter with others who may be interested!
Register for BrightFocus Chats
Recently diagnosed with AMD? Know someone who has it? Receive helpful information from our FREE monthly phone call with doctors, researchers, or experts in the field on timely topics. You can submit questions before or during the event. Transcripts and audio recordings are available afterward on our website.
To register, call 800-437-2423 or go to brightfocus.org/eyechats.
Potential Medications for Dry Macular Degeneration
For patients with advanced dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD), there is currently no FDA-approved therapy. There are, however, several treatments currently in clinical trials.
In a phase II trial, the complement C3 inhibitor Apl-2 significantly inhibited the expansion of the area of atrophy. The complement is an arm of the immune system that seems to be overactive in AMD. The drug is now in phase III clinical trials. Apl-2 is injected into the eye either monthly or every other month. This drug is also being tested for wet AMD.
Zimura® (avacincaptad pegol), which inhibits another protein in the complement cascade, C5, is also being tested by intraocular injection. In a phase II trial, it slowed the growth of advanced dry macular degeneration.
Several oral drugs are also being tested. These include Oracea, which is the antibiotic doxycycline. It has anti-inflammatory activities that may be beneficial for patients with geographic atrophy. This drug is in phase II/III trials.
Another drug with anti-inflammatory properties is the diabetes medication, metformin. A retrospective study of patients at the University of Florida found that patients taking metformin had a decreased risk of developing AMD.
To learn more about these and other prospective treatments, please visit brightfocus.org/AMDmeds.
Important Update: Charitable Giving and Covid-19
The COVID-19 virus has created challenges across our world, impacting all of us in many different ways. In response to the pandemic, Congress passed the CARES Act, removing limitations on Federal income taxes on how much of your charitable donations you can deduct against your income for all of 2020—no matter who you are or how much you give. Additionally, anyone who donates up to $300, whether they itemize or not, can deduct that against other income for donations in 2020 (considered an “Above the Line” deduction).
One of the non-health-related challenges that has come with the coronavirus is the creation of “market uncertainty.” While stock holdings may have had a tumultuous ride recently, charitable gift annuities can provide a steady income for yourself for life, in addition to providing much-needed support for important charitable organizations—like Macular Degeneration Research.
For additional ways to fund your gift, you can contact Charlie Thomas at 301-556-9362 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information regarding all the many ways you can leave a legacy of support, go to brightfocus.org/plannedgiving.
Thank you for supporting Macular Degeneration Research!