Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Treatment can't reverse dry macular degeneration. But this doesn't mean you'll eventually lose all of your sight. Dry macular degeneration usually progresses slowly, and many people with the condition can live relatively normal, productive lives, especially if only one eye is affected. Your doctor may recommend annual eye exams to see if your condition is progressing.

Increased vitamin intake

Taking a high-dose formulation of antioxidant vitamins and zinc may reduce the progression of dry macular degeneration to vision loss, according to research by the National Eye Institute (NEI). In its research, the NEI used a formulation that included:

  • 500 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C
  • 400 international units (IU) of vitamin E
  • 15 mg of beta carotene (often as vitamin A — up to 25,000 IU)
  • 80 mg of zinc (as zinc oxide)
  • 2 mg of copper (as cupric oxide)

Ask your doctor whether this formulation may help you reduce your risk of vision loss. Studies found this specific combination of vitamins can't cure severe vision loss, but it may reduce the risk of vision loss in people with intermediate macular degeneration.

If you have advanced stage macular degeneration in one eye, this combination of vitamins may reduce the risk that you'll develop vision loss in your other eye. But for people with early-stage dry macular degeneration, there's no evidence that these vitamins provide a benefit.

Some vitamin supplements may have complications and risks. Tell your doctor if you smoke or have smoked in the past, because beta carotene supplements have been associated with a higher risk of lung cancer in smokers. Beta carotene also may increase the risk of coronary artery disease. Also, high doses of vitamin E may increase the risk of heart failure and other complications.

Your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes to include more of the fruits and vegetables that contain these vitamins into your diet, along with other foods that contain nutrients believed to contribute to eye health. Some people may prefer to make lifestyle changes rather than take supplements. Others may wish to combine supplements with lifestyle changes. Discuss your options with your doctor.

Researchers continue to study the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids and lutein  in people with macular degeneration.

Surgery to implant a telescopic lens in one eye

For selected people with advanced macular degeneration in both eyes, one option to improve vision may be surgery to implant a telescopic lens in one eye. The telescopic lens, which looks like a tiny plastic tube, is equipped with lenses that magnify your field of vision. The telescopic lens implant may improve both distance and close-up vision.

Nov. 20, 2012