The Nutritional and Herbal Treatment of Age-Related Macular Degeneration. A Preliminary Study
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common cause of visual impairment in people over 60 years. Treatment is limited in orthodox medicine, but nutritional supplements, diet and herbs may prove to be suitable treatments. Herbal medicine uses herbs, diet and lifestyle changes to treat disease and maintain health, therefore it may be appropriate for treating AMD.
Three methodologies were used to investigate the potential for treating AMD with herbal medicine. A literature search revealed many recent studies on the epidemiology, pathology and treatment of AMD. Pathological changes appear to be mainly due to oxidative stress, although other factors may also be involved. Nutritional supplements and diet have promise as a treatment to reduce the progression of AMD. A few herbs also came to light as being of interest, the most commonly mentioned was Vaccinium myrtillus.
A case study showed that AMD may be treated by a medical herbalist. The outcome was successful, the patient felt her vision to be improving, although her optometrist was unable to measure improvements to vision that might relate to this perceived improvement in sight.
A short questionnaire was completed by a small sample of herbalists to elicit how often they treat the condition. The results revealed that AMD does not often present to medical herbalists.
While vitamin and mineral dietary supplements are the most common supplements recommended by optometrists and ophthalmologists, herbs may also be a source of these vitamins, minerals and dietary factors. Vaccinium myrtillus is widely recognised in scientific studies as being of potential benefit, and 9 of the 10 NIMH medical herbalists who completed the questionnaire listed the herb as being of use in the treatment of AMD.
It is concluded that, while herbal medicine is not often used to treat AMD, it is likely to be of great value.