> Macular Degeneration

Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration definition, symptoms, treatments and help. Nutrition, diet, supplements and products from alternative medicine. Info on frequency specific microcurrent FSM for eyes. HBOT (hyperbaric oxygen therapy) for AMD. More.


The macula is a small spot located on the retina that is necessary for your central vision, that is, the ability to see straight ahead.

There are two forms of the condition. About 90 percent of people with AMD have the dry form, while the remaining ten percent have the wet form.  In the dry form, there is loss of pigment in the retina, and small, yellowish deposits form within the layers of the retina. These deposits result in loss of central vision, which makes it difficult to do such simple tasks as reading or driving. The dry form usually progresses slowly, causing a gradual disruption of vision. Wet macular degeneration is more aggressive, and may cause faster or even sudden loss of central vision.

Before reading any further,
see our medical disclaimer.

Although straight ahead, central vision is impaired by the disorder, patients usually retain peripheral vision, so they are not completely blind.

Note that the terms age-related macular degeneration (which is what we're discussing here), AMD, and ARMD are used interchangeably to mean the same thing here.

Causes and symptoms

Most cases happen in older people. The causes have not been nailed down yet, but it is known that the disorder is more common in whites, in women, in those who smoke or are overweight. It is suspected there may be a genetic factor, since a family history increases the risk.

Although it is often referred to as macular degeneration disease or macular degenerative disease, AMD is not a disease.

Macular Degeneration Symptoms

  • Impaired central vision
  • Blind spots
  • Lines that are straight look wavy
  • Objects appear different in shape or color in each of the eyes
Amsler Grid for macular degeneration

Detecting Early AMD: The Amsler Grid Macular Degeneration Test
You can get some indication of whether you should see your doctor by using the Amsler Grid macular degeneration chart. A simple Amsler Grid explanation is that it is a printed grid, with vertical and horizontal lines and a dot in the middle. To take the Amsler Grid test, simply stare at the dot. If the lines surrounding the dot bulge or are wavy, you should see a doctor. Here's the definition of an Amsler Grid with directions for use with macular degeneration. You can find printable Amsler Grids on the Internet; for example, there's a printable Amsler Grid here.

Dry Macular Degeneration Help

Information on treatments from alternative medicine is more available for the dry form than for the wet form, which is treated mainly with surgery and drugs.

Macular degeneration aids can take the form of foods, that is nutrition or diet. There are also very promising supplements, vitamins, minerals and other products. In addition, there are treatments, such as hyperbaric oxygen therapy and frequency specific microcurrent stimulation, that show significant success in stopping and even reversing AMD.

Macular degeneration treatments

Frequency Specific Microcurrent (FSM)

Another alternative therapy is frequency specific microcurrent stimulation, or FSM, for people with macular degeneration. FSM delivers two specific frequencies simultaneously, one for the tissue involved, the other specific to the condition.

According to Robert Jay Rowen, M.D., frequency specific microcurrent for eyes was pioneered by ophthalmologist Ed Kondrot, M.D., of Phoenix (602-631-4504). When Dr. Kondrot started using microcurrent stimulation with frequencies specific to eyes, he got extraordinary results. Dr. Rowen said that his father, who has macular degeneration, was able to read three more lines on the reading eye chart in just minutes after treatment with frequency specific microcurrent stimulation.

Says Dr. Rowen, "FSM is completely legal and even approved by the FDA. FSM machines are a class-2 (safe) device approved for sale by the FDA as a TENS unit (which is very commonly used for pain). And it's becoming more widely available. Several hundred practitioners have been trained. You can find a doctor who uses FSM at the treatment's official website." The Web site is at www.frequencyspecific.com. Home units, at $1,300 to $4,000 are available by prescription from a trained doctor.

In-office treatments last an hour and cost, as this is written in 2007, $100 to $150.

In his April 2011 newsletter, Alternatives, medical researcher Dr. David Williams references a two-year study of 46 patients done by three doctors of optometry of the Indiana University School of Optometry. The patients were treated with a TENS device. 

In addition, the patients took the following supplements, half in the morning and half in the evening:

Beta-carotene 40,000 IU
Natural vitamin E 400 IU
Vitamin C 1,500 mg
Citrus bioflavonoid complex 250 mg
Quercetin 100 mg
Bilberry extract 10 mg
Rutin 100 mg
Zinc 25 mg
Selenium 100 mcg (micrograms)
Taurine 200 mg
N-acetylcysteine 200 mg
L-glutathione 10 mg
Vitamin B1 100 mg
Vitamine B2 15 mg

The vision of patients with AMD would normally deteriorate over two years, but these patients improved, showing and whopping average of 8.5 letters of acuity per eye.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy

Looking for new treatments for macular degeneration? One alternative treatment is hyperbaric oxygen therapy, also known as HBOT.

Oxygen deficiency is part of the cause of AMD, because lack of oxygen hampers the cells in pumping out toxins, resulting in inflammation that hinders the generation of new blood vessels in injured tissues. This in turn results in more inflammation and swelling that causes increased oxygen deficiency, a vicious cycle.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy infuses needed oxygen into damaged cells under pressure. HBOT dissolves oxygen into your body, diffusing it everywhere, even into hard-to-reach inflammed and swollen areas. It brings hyperbaric oxygen to the retina and to the macula.

Robert Jay Rowen, M.D., says that his friend, David Steenblock, DO, of Mission Viejo, California has had success with hyperbaric oxygen therapy for AMD. 

Dr. Rowen mentions a report by Drs. Jansen and Nielson from Copenhagen, Denmark, which details two case histories of ARMD patients improving with HBOT. Both patients had cystoid macular degeneration. One patient, a type-2 diabetic, went from a visual acuity of 0.5 (difficulty reading), to 1.0, where he could read normally, with just one treatment. 

The second patient’s visual acuity was only 0.2; he could not read at all. After five sessions of HBOT in three days, his acuity was 0.9, where he could read normally.

These Denmark doctors saw a "very rapid," day-by-day improvement in the macula and recommend that treatment be started as early as possible, before there is irreversible damage.

Dr. Rowen says that current medical thinking has abandoned the idea that high pressure in a metal chamber is necessary for good results, because improvement is also seen with new fabric "mild" hyperbaric chambers. Some doctors think lower pressure is better for some conditions.

Dr. Rowen uses the Oxy Health mild chamber. (www.oxyhealth.com) He says it’s lightweight, portable and relatively inexpensive. He says that a typical series of office treatments would be twenty sessions at $75 up, so if you need lots of treatments, purchasing your own unit could prove economical in the long run.

To find a doctor who uses hyperbaric oxygen therapy, contact ACAM, the American College for the Advancement of Medicine at www.acam.com or 1-888-439-6891.

In his April 2010 newsletter, Dr. Rowen says, re macular degeneration: "from the groundbreaking research of Italian researcher Velio Bocci, M.D. , I'd suggest a visit to a physician who offers ozone therapy (www.oxygenhealingtheraphies.com). It can work wonders on this eye disease," he says.

Intravenous nutrient therapy

In his August 2010 issue of Bottom Line Natural Healing, Mark Stengler, licensed naturopathic medical doctor, discusses intravenous nutrient therapy for macular degeneration. Although no clinical studies have been done, some anecdotal results have been impressive, for example, seeing more clearly after one 90 minute treatment.

During intravenous (IV) nutrient therapy, a cocktail of vitamins and other nutrients go directly into the bloodstream via the IV, providing much higher levels of nutrients than a patient could get from taking supplements by mouth. Nutrients include vitamin C, selenium, zinc, chromium and l-carnitine.  Patients must take tests to make sure their kidneys and liver can handle the treatments.

Patients who have had this IV therapy claim positive results, including getting back most of the sight they had lost to either wet or dry macular degeneration. IV therapy also stops progression of the disease.

Dr. Stengler notes that Paul Anderson, ND, a professor of naturopathic medicine at Bastyr University near Seattle, created the IV nutrient therapy for age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Dr. Anderson gives patients at least six to 12 infusions depending on their age. Each treatment takes 90 to 120 minutes and costs $150 to $200 as this is written in 2010.

After finishing the treatments, patients can maintain their good results by eating healthy foods and taking oral supplements.

Macular Degeneration Treatments With A Money-Back Guarantee

Jonathan Wright, M.D., who specializes in nutritional treatments in his practice near Tacoma, Washington, gives a money-back guarantee on his intravenous nutritional treatment for dry ARMD. Either they stop the progression of the disease, or reverse it. They insist on before-and-after exams by independent eye doctors to assess the result. If you continue to get worse, you get your money back. Since they started the treatment in 2001, they've had a 70 percent success rate.

The treatment can take several months, although most see some improvement in four to six weeks.

Guaranteed Treatment For Both Dry And Wet AMD
A physician in Santa Fe, New Mexico claims to have a treatment that will reverse both dry and wet macular degeneration. He also offers a money-back guarantee.  Dr. Lundgren says he is "so confident in the results of this protocol that all charges will be refunded if after four treatments there is not objective improvement in visual acuity. As measured on National Eye Institute EDTRS charts, one eye must test at least one line better in either near or distant vision. Most patients show much greater improvement." Read this article: The Santa Fe Protocol to Reverse the Vision Loss of Macular Degeneration.

Macular Degeneration Diet

For alternative healing, there’s nothing like eating the right foods! Good macular degeneration nutrition can prevent and may even reverse AMD.

Olives Prevent AMD?
Researchers from the University of California, Irvine, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and DSM Nutritional Products found that the main antioxidant compound in olives, hydroxytyrosol (HTS), protected against the oxidative damage that causes AMD. This HTS compound in olives can also protect against acrolein, a chemical in cigarette smoke that may make smokers at much greater risk of AMD (1.9 times the risk of nonsmokers).

Working with retinal cells, the researchers treated cells with HTS before exposing them to acrolein. There was less damage to the treated cells than to cells not pretreated with HTS.

However, you'd have to eat about 50 olives a day to get the protective effect. So eat olives and use olive oil as part of your total nutritional protocol for ARMD, which may also include foods and supplements described below.

Low Glycemic Foods
The glycemic index is a chart that rates how fast a food raises your blood sugar. A study examined the diets of  4,099 people between the ages of 55 and 80 as to how their intake of high glycemic foods affected their risk of developing ARMD.
People whose diets showed them in the top 20% of the dietary glycemic index (as compared to the lowest) showed a 49% increased risk for advanced macular degeneration. To change to more low-glycemic foods, go to www.glycemicindex.com to find out how foods rank on the glycemic index. Clue: vegetables and meats rate the lowest.

Boston hospital researchers studied 77,562 women in the Nurses Health Study and another 40,866 men in the Health Professionals Followup Study to find out how diet affected the health of their eyes. The study found that participants who ate three or more servings per day of fruit had a 36 percent lower risk of the worst kind of AMD compared to those eating only 1.5 servings per day.

The researchers think it’s the pigments found in highly colored fruit that protect against ARMD. These pigments are  flavonoids, which are potent antioxidants and vascular protectors. Eat at least three servings a day.

Macular Degeneration Supplements

Lutein, Zeaxanthin and Astaxanthin

A macular degeneration diet would include foods containing lutein and zeaxanthin, which are carotenoids—major components of retinal pigments, which enable vision. Studies show that people with the highest intake of lutein and zeaxanthin have a 57 percent lower risk of developing AMD.

A 1994 the Journal of the American Medical Association published a paper revealing that people who got six milligrams of lutein daily had a 43 percent prevalence reduction in ARMD.

A study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin in Madison involved examining the diets of more than 1,700 women ages 50 to 79. Those younger than 75 who ate a diet rich in the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which block free radical damage to the retina, appear to have lowered their risk of intermediate AMD. 

You can get lutein and zeaxanthin from foods or supplements.  Good food sources are leafy green vegetables, such as kale, collard greens, and spinach.

A related nutrient, astaxanthin, also "retards the progress of degenerative eye diseases and benefits the vistion of the individuals suffering from degenerative eye diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration," according to University of Illinois researchers. Astaxanthin is found in pink fish and seafood, such as shrimp, crawfish, crab, lobster, trout, and salmon, especially free-range, North Pacific sockeye salmon. It is also found in certain kinds of algae.


The phenols in red and white wine act as antioxidants to reduce retinal damage as well. 

Our retinas contain high concentrations of zinc, and zinc has been shown to somewhat slow the progression of macular degeneration. In a 1988 trial, people with macular degeneration who took 45 milligrams of zinc orally each day lost significantly less vision than those who took placebos.
Oysters are the best source of zinc. Red meat, shellfish and fish (low mercury) are also good sources, as are pumpkin seeds, other nuts and seeds, beans, and whole grains, wheat germ and poultry.

In 1977, Dr. Joseph Bittner was a resident of eastern Washington state, an area with selenium deficient soils. When he took selenium and vitamin E supplements, his macular degeneration improved. Dr. Wright heard about this and told his AMD patients.  Some got a lot better; one got so much better that his opthamologist said his original diagnosis must have been a mistake. But some did not get better.

Studies show that people with macular degeneration have significantly lower selenium levels than age-matched individuals who don’t have AMD. 

Good sources of selenium include liver and kidney (organic only), brewer’s yeast, ocean fish (low-mercury), and red meat.  Other good sources are some vegetables grown in soil with adequate selenium, including onions, garlic, mushrooms, and broccoli are good sources.

B vitamins

Studies have shown that riboflavin (vitamin B2) helps maintain normal retina function.

Good sources of riboflavin include liver and kidney, as well as brewer’s yeast. Almonds, mushrooms, wheat bran, and dark green leafy vegetables are also good sources.

The risk of progression from early macular degeneration to a more serious condition known as geographic atrophy can be decreased by taking the B vitamins thiamine, riboflavin and folate, says Frank Shallenberger, M.D. in his newsletter, Second Opinion, 12/16.

Studies show you can reduce your risk of early onset ARMD by up to 40%  by eating one to three servings of omega-3 rich fish. Wild Alaskan salmon is especially recommended. Or, you can take a good fish-oil supplement. Look for fish oils that say "contaminate-free" and that are molecularly distilled.

Vegetarians can get omega-3s from nuts, ground flaxseeds,  and green leafy vegetables, but
fish is the only source that contains both eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docohexaenoic acid (DHA).

Jonathan Wright, M.D., who specializes in nutritional medicine, recommends Ocudyne II, the newest 2005 version, which he formulated with Dr. Alan Gaby. He claims it has a 70 percent success rate in arresting or reversing early AMD. It contains over thirty nutrients, including lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamin A, C, D, and E, selenium, zinc, riboflavin, taurine and ginkgo biloba. You can find it at your health food store or on the Internet. Search on "jonathan wright ocudyne ii" without the quotes.

Here’s a link in case you’re curious about the entire ingredient list of OcuDyne II.

Dr. Wright also says to eliminate all refined sugar, refined carbohydrates, partially hydrogenated fatty acids, non-food chemicals, and all other forms of junk food. Easier said than done, right? One baby step at a time.

I don't have macular degeneration, but I've had a lot of trouble with my eyes, which were uncorrectable to 20/20 until I had surgery to replace the natural lenses inside my eyes with plastic lenses. I also had cataracts and a detached retina. Altogether, I had five surgeries on my eyes. I take Vision Essentials from Julian Whitaker, M.D. This is not a recommendation; it's just another product to check out. If you're going to take a product like this, consider doing a comparison among products. Find out about Vision Essentials here, and see a list of ingredients here.

Vitamin D
Dr. Rowen puts a high value on Vitamin D for AMD. He says that Vitamin D may be useful as a treatment for wet macular degeneration. Vitamin D not only stops the underlying process of wet AMD, called neovascularization, it can reduce it and also reduce abnormal retinal endothelial cell proliferation. Dr. Rowen recommends 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily, summer and winter. Make sure it’s D3; look on the container.

Macular degeneration risk factors

One of the risk factors of macular degeneration is a chemical called homocysteine, which your body produces normally. Homocystiene, can build up and cause increased risk of macular degeneration.

In one study, scientists measured the fasting homocysteine levels of 934 subjects. Of that group, 547 people had AMD and 387 did not. The researchers found that homocysteine levels above 12 mmol were associated with a higher risk of macular degeneration. 

You can bring homocysteine levels down with a cocktail of vitamins B6 (100 mg), B12 (by injection), folic acid (800 mcg), and DMG (100 mg) or TMG (500 mg) taken daily.

Dr. Rowen, who practices in Santa Rosa, California, has found that supplemental vitamin B12 is the most beneficial of the group, and he uses B12 injections.

More macular degeneration treatments

In his April 2010 newsletter, Dr. Rowen describes a study by Italian researchers who combined omega-3 fatty acids, co-enzyme Q-10 and acetyl-L-carnitine for patients with early age-related macular degeneration. "The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial found statistically significant improvements in central visual field and visual acuity. It also found improvements in eye alterations after three to six months of treatment."

There is a variety of macular degeneration products and supplements available.

Robert Jay Rowen, M.D., recommends vitamin C (500 mg), vitamin E (400 IU), beta-carotene (15 mg), zinc (80 mg) and copper (2 mg) daily, which can slow down AMD. A Johns Hopkins study showed that these nutrients can reduce ARMD's progression by 25% and reduced vision loss by 19%.

Talking about macular degeneration vitamins, Dr. Rowen also says that vitamin A is even better than beta-carotene. High doses of vitamin A can cause toxicity, but it’s reversible by discontinuing consumption of vitamin A. He recommends 25,000 units daily of Vitamin A for those who have been diagnosed with AMD. 

Dr. Rowen says that you must take along with this much vitamin A 4,000 to 8,000 units of vitamin D, because vitamin A can interfere with vitamin D functions.  DO NOT use this much vitamin A if you are pregnant, or could get pregnant, says Dr. Rowen, since it can cause harm.


Bottom Line Natural Healing with Dr. Mark Stengler, August 2010

The Most Urgent Health Discoveries of the Year, from Health Sciences Institute, 2002

Second Opinion newsletter, by Robert Jay Rowen, M.D. November 2002, February 2005, November 2005, February 2006, March 2006

Second Opinion Health Alert, May 16 2007, August 1, 2007, October 12, 2007

Nutrition & Healing newsletter, by Jonathan Wright, M.D., February 2005

Nutrition & Healing Health e-Tips, by Jonathan Wright, M.D., October 12, 2006, Oct 26 2006


Secondary References
"Olive extract may protect against AMD," NutraIngredients (www.nutraingredients.com), 2/13/08

"Hydroxytyrosol protects retinal pigment epithelial cells from acrolein-induced oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction," Journal of Neurochemistry 2007; 103(6): 2,690- 2,700.

"Capturing the power of olives," Asia Food Journal (www.asiafoodjournal.com), accessed 2/14/08, as summarized by Jonathan Wright, M.D. at wrightnewsletter.com.

"Nutritional Factors in Degenerative Eye Disorders: Cataract and Macular Degeneration," by Alan R. Gaby, M.D., and Jonathan Wright, M.D.

Archives of Opthalmology, June 2004; Stroke, July 2, 2004

Flood, V.M., B. Chua, et al. "Dietary fatty acids and the five year incidence of age-related maculopathy," 2005; 14 Suppl:S82

"Association between dietary glycemic index and age-related macular degeneration in nondiabetic participants in the Age-Related Eye Disease Study," Chiu CJ, Taylor A, et al, J Clin Nutr07; 86(1): 180-188

Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev, 2007; 16(5): 929-33; Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci, 2007; 48(5)

American Journal of Ophthalmology, January 2006

New England Journal of Medicine, February 9, 2006

Cheng, Gnok. Journal of Clinical Orthopedics, 1982, vol. 171

Acta Ophthalmologica Scandinavia, 2004, 82(4)

"Cigarette smoking, fish consumption, omega-3 fatty acid intake, and associations with age-related macular degeneration: The U.S. twin study of age-related macular degeneration," Archives of Ophthamology 2006;124:995-1001


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