The dry form accounts for 90% of the cases. However, it’s the more advanced wet form that is the most common cause of irreversible and severe loss of vision – and for which surgical decisions arise.
Two most common surgical options are laser photocoagulation and photodynamic therapy (PDT). In both, the idea is to seal bleeding blood vessels to prevent any vision loss or to delay further progression of vision loss.
In photocoagulation, intense laser light cauterizes, stopping the bleeding and destroying abnormal blood vessels. (Only 20% of patients qualify for this surgery.) In PDT, a unique light activated by dye, seals unhealthy blood vessels, reducing them. But surgeries vary, and each method comes with its own risks and complications. (More about these supposed “abnormal” or “unhealthy” blood vessels later.)
Not surprisingly, studies find that before and after surgery, patients report a high degree of quality of life impairment due to poor vision; meaning surgery didn’t help improve their vision.
However, that’s not surprising to those professionals who take a holistic view of vision care.
According to the ophthalmologist and nutritional expert Dr. Gary Price Todd, M.D., O.D., the surgery option is not a good one: “If you take the laser [photocoagulation] you have a 4 to 15% chance that 5 years from now you’re going to be seeing better than you would have otherwise, but a pretty hefty chance, well over 50%, that you’re going to be seeing a lot worse immediately than you would have if treatment were not done. In my mind, that’s not a good option.”
Dr. Todd, who conducted his own scientific studies over five years with great success, including blood and vision testing, believed nutrition therapy was far more effective and safer, and with no side effects.
If you don’t get the results, he says, you can still have the laser, but at least “you have a chance, a better chance to correct the metabolic problem rather than going in and burning holes in the back of the eye. Very seldom does a person improve once they’ve had a laser. They just don’t see as well as they did.”
The more important question to Todd and other holistic doctors is what causes the bleeding in the first place?
The answer? – The macula is starving.
In its attempt to heal itself, the body, in its infinite wisdom, creates new blood vessels to replace those in the eye that are drying up and dying due to a lack of sufficient nutrient and oxygen supply to the eyes. These are “abnormal” or “unhealthy” blood vessels are the targets of surgery.
But these new vessels are weak, and crack and bleed. After all, they are not getting any better supply of nutrients than the dying vessels.
So surgery becomes about stopping the bleeding.
Lucentis injections clean up the bleeding, acting like a sponge to reabsorb the blood from the leaks, but they don’t cure Macular Degeneration, which is a common misconception and the mistaken reason many people get the shots.
“But injections and surgery don’t help the macula recover or heal,” says New Jersey-based Andy Rosenfarb, N.D., L.ac., a Naturopathic Doctor and Acupuncturist who specializes in vision problems.
“Maybe you stopped the possibility of bleeding, but you’ve also cut off the new food supply to the macula. So it’s still going to degenerate,” Rosenfarb says. “Possibly, you may have controlled some bleeding, which will probably occur anyway again, but you’re cutting off the body’s attempt to recover and revive these macula cells. So you’re really not helping yourself out by doing that.”
Clinical trials sponsored by the National Eye Institute (NEI) have supported both doctors’ claims “that vision does not improve substantially after surgery.”
Dr. Rosenfarb believes that people – and their eyes – are nutritionally deficient, which is why it’s good to have supplementation.
“After we increase the blood flow to the eyes,” he says, “we have to get the right nutrients into the blood stream to deliver them to the eyes. With the right nutrients delivered into the eyes you have a much higher probability of regeneration and preservation.”
At its best, treating the symptoms may lead to temporary relief. But it’s never the best long-term solution, which is to fully nourish the eyes – and cleanse toxins from the visual system.
In other words, do whatever you can to encourage the body’s natural ability to heal itself.