Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of vision loss among the elderly, is also linked to Alzheimer’s disease. A study has revealed that the proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease can accumulate in the retina and damage it. The researchers are hopeful their findings can work to improve treatment methods.
Study lead Dr. Arjuna Ratnayaka explained, “We know that AMD is caused by a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle risk factors, but this novel discovery could open up new possibilities to understand how the aging retina becomes damaged. Such advances are important if we are to develop better AMD treatments in the future. AMD currently affects more than 600,000 people in the U.K. and 50 million individuals worldwide. This figure is expected rise significantly as our society grows older. We urgently need new treatments to stop people spending their twilight years in blindness.”
Using both cell cultures and mouse models, the scientists analyzed how quickly amyloid-beta proteins (associated with the onset of Alzheimer’s disease) entered the retina and how much damage they caused.
The researchers found that the amyloid-beta proteins enter the retina within 24 hours of exposure and then start breaking the cellular scaffold structures.
Dr. Ratnayaka added, “The speed in which these proteins entered the retinal cells was unexpected. These findings have given some insights into how a normal healthy retina can switch to a diseased AMD retina. We hope that this could lead to designing better treatments for patients in the future.”
The researchers’ next step is evaluating how amyloid-beta proteins enter the retina and examining how the damage occurs.
To properly diagnose AMD, your doctor must complete several tests. These include examining the back of the eye, tests that help determine defects in your central vision, fluorescein angiography (a color dye is injected and moves towards the blood vessels of the eyes and a special camera takes pictures of it), indocyanine green angiography (completed with an injected dye and confirms diagnosis from the fluorescein angiography test), and optical coherence tomography, which is a non-invasive imaging test.
Based on the findings, you doctor will recommend a mode of treatment for your AMD. Although treatment cannot reverse dry AMD, it can help improve vision for the patient to continue living a normal, healthy life. The use of corrective lenses, either glasses or contacts, can help improve your central vision. Annual checkups with an ophthalmologist are important for monitoring the progress of AMD. Regular visits to the optometrists are key for early detection of the disease onset.
Just like an unhealthy diet can increase one’s risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, eating a healthy diet can improve the condition. Ensure you’re enjoying a variety of fruits and vegetables, which are nutrient powerhouses.
Eye exercises may help maintain vision. Healthy lifestyle habits can also help you support your vision health. Not smoking, controlling blood pressure and cholesterol, and wearing protective eyewear – sunglasses, safety goggles – can all contribute to healthier vision and slow down the progression of age-related macular degeneration.