Macular Degeneration Testing
Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in the Western World after the age of 55 affecting over nine million Americans. About 15% of people over the age of 80 have macular degeneration as it increases dramatically as we get older. Genetic testing allows for earlier diagnosis and treatment and for the custom tailoring of treatment. This is thought to help preserve vision, especially in the eye that is least affected. Macular degeneration exists in a dry form and can progress to a more severe wet form. Even though the wet form only comprise about 10% of the total cases it is responsible for about 90% of the blindness. Anything we can do to slow or prevent the progression of the wet form of macular degeneration has a large payoff in preventing blindness. Timely macular degeneration testing can help.
Macular Degeneration Testing
There are two main methods of macular degeneration testing:
- The Macula Risk Test evaluates the presence or absence of 15 different genetic markers (SNP’s) for macular degeneration in combination with the history of smoking habits. This test gives a 2,5, and 10 year risk category for the development of macular degeneration. It also shows a Vita Risk Analysis which suggest different supplement types depending on test results. It appears some currently recommended supplement regimens may be harmful to people with specific genetic markers. While smoking increases the risk of macular degeneration several fold, in conjunction with one specific genetic marker it may increase it as much as 34 times, yes that is 3400%! That is major knowledge to have if you are at risk. Just think, if you have that genetic factor it is almost a given that you WILL GO BLIND if you continue to smoke. Another study found that if no genetic risks or smoking was present, the incidence of macular degeneration was only 1% after age 80. It also means that if you are in a higher risk category you can be followed at a much shorter time interval and start any needed treatment early- and early treatment may mean the difference between going blind versus enjoying the rest of your life, one panoramic view at a time! while still expensive, I foresee one day using these types of tests at an early age to help custom tailor lifestyles to maximize health.
- The RetnaGene AMD test examines 8 genes for 12 possible genetic variations that contribute to the progression of the dry form of macular degeneration to the more serious wet form. It combines these findings with the phenotype, or the appearance of the current stage of macular degeneration in the eyes to yield a 2,5, and 10 year risk category for the chance of progressing to the more severe form of macular degeneration.
Eye Inflammation is the Common Factor
Both of these tests share one thing in common; they both include a test of the complement H area on chromosome. The Complement System is part of our immune system to help remove foreign bacteria, viruses, and other cellular debris. When it gets ramped up it causes inflammation. Complement H is part of the system that helps us recognize our own cells and prevents attacking them. When there are genetic variants sometimes this self protection system fails and the body attacks itself, as in macular degeneration.
The thing to keep in mind is a well balanced immune system is vital to your health. A healthy diet and lifestyle are critical for a healthy immune system.
To not go blind from macular degeneration do the following:
- Have annual preventative eye exams
- Don’t smoke-if you do quit
- Make sure your blood pressure stays in normal ranges
- Maintain a normal weight
- Eat foods rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, consider purchasing a juicer to help achieve a broad spectrum of phytopigments and antioxidants
- If you have macular degeneration have genetic testing done to custom tailor your treatment. If you have parents with macular degeneration you may want to be tested as your risk profile is 20% higher.
- If you have macular degeneration take a supplement that at a bare minimum includes the current recommendations of lutein, zeaxanthin and zinc.
- If you have wet macular degeneration be seen by your eye doctor often and take the eye injections if they are recommended
- Wear quality sunglasses when you spend time outdoors ( at higher elevations like Fort Collins the increased exposure to UV radiation may be a contributing factor)
There is still some controversy over the value of macular degeneration testing. It is still fairly new and a costly procedure. However, it is an easy test just requiring a cheek swab. Ask your eye doctor if it could possibly be a help in your situation.