Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

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Cannabis and CBD for Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss, according to the American Macular Degeneration Association. It actually affects more than 10 million Americans of every age, more than cataracts and glaucomas combined. The deterioration of the central part of the retina, i.e. the internal back layer of our eye which captures images first before being sent to the optic nerve and brain where they can be traced back into scenes, we can recognize is called an “incurable disorder.”

The function of the “macula” is to focus on the central vision of the eye. It controls our ability to read, drive and recognize colors and faces. We are also able to see details in the objects because of the macula. When the macula cells start to deteriorate, the result is that images are not received correctly. Blurred vision or waviness may occur in the early and intermediate stages of the disease. Nevertheless, as AMD worsens, central vision may become completely lost (although peripheral vision remains). 

What is Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)?

Macular degeneration associated with age (AMD) is an eye disease that may worsen over time. It is the main cause of serious, permanent loss of sight for people over 60 years of age.

This occurs when the retina wears down the small central section called the macula. The retina is the light-sensing nerve tissue at the back of your eye.

Because the condition happens as you get older, macular degeneration is often considered age-related. This usually does not cause blindness, but could cause severe problems with vision.

Age-related macular degeneration has two main types:

  • Dry form. People with this may have yellow deposits, called drusen, in their macula. A few small drusens may not cause vision changes. As the condition worsens, light cells in the macula are thinners and eventually die. As they are larger and larger, they may dim or distort your vision, in particular when you read it. You may have blind spots in the center of your vision in the atrophic form. You may lose central vision as this gets worse.
  • Wet form. Blood vessels are growing from below your macula. These blood vessels leak into your retina with blood and fluid. Your vision is distorted to make straight lines appear wavy. You may also suffer blind spots and central vision loss. Eventually, these blood vessels and their leakage form a scar, resulting in permanent central vision loss.

You are more likely to develop AMD if you:

  • Eat a diet high in saturated fat (found in foods such as beef, butter, and cheese)
  • are overweight
  • smoke cigarettes
  • are over 50 years of age
  • have high blood pressure
  • have a family history of AMD

Another risk factor for AMD is having heart disease, as is having high cholesterol levels. There is also a high risk of getting AMD.

Causes of Macular Degeneration

The precise causes of macular degeneration are not clear and further research is needed to fully understand this disorder. Nevertheless, both genetic and environmental factors are known to intensify the cause of AMD.

Many risk factors for developing MD have been reported by researchers, including:

  • Smoking: People who smoke double their risk of MD later in life.
  • Race: Caucasians are more likely than Hispanics or African Americans to develop MD.
  • Genetics: You are more at risk of developing the disease when you have a family history of MD.
  • Age: The risk of MD rises as you age — macular degeneration usually occurs in people 55 or older.

Symptoms of Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

Macular degeneration associated with age usually leads to slow, painless loss of vision. However, loss of vision may be sudden in rare cases. Including shadowy areas in your central vision or an unusually flat or distorted vision, early signs of visual loss by AMD.

Your eye care specialist is likely to see signs of macular degeneration before you become aware of any vision loss. When you begin to experience vision loss from age-related macular degeneration, symptoms may include:

  • Difficulty in recognition of faces, words, and details
  • Blurred and distorted vision
  • Decreased color brightness
  • Reduced central vision
  • Straight lines appearing wavy or curved
  • Difficulty adapting to low light
  • Blurred vision:  Those who suffer from non-exudative macular degeneration may experience a gradual loss of central vision or asylum, while those who have exudative macular degeneration often experience a rapid onset of vision loss.
  • Central scotomas (shadows or missing areas of vision)
  • Distorted vision (i.e. metamorphopsia)-A straight line grid appears waved and parts of the grid may appear blank. Patients often first notice this when they look at the mini-blinds in their home.
  • Trouble-discerning colors: specifically, dark ones from dark ones and light ones from light ones.
  • Slow recovery of visual function after exposure to bright light
  • A loss in contrast sensitivity 

How Cannabis Can Help Relieve the Symptoms of Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

  • Cannabis is an anti-inflammatory. There is nothing new about the fact that marijuana is an anti-inflammatory. But cannabidiol has also been shown to be an anti-inflammatory specific to the retina region, especially when it is associated with exposure to endotoxin and diabetes. Believe it or not, all three of these conditions have a direct correlation. Diabetes and macular degeneration frequently go hand in hand (especially due to low levels of glutathione). On the other hand, exposure to bacterial endotoxins can also lead to MD. And all three of these conditions are instigated by an inflammatory response, which, of course, has proven to be quite effective in mitigating CBD.
  • Cannabinoids have been shown to inhibit VEGF growth.  The whole point of administering the grueling injection of drugs directly into the eye to MD patients is because these medications are meant to be capable of stopping the progression of the growth factor of the vascular endothelial (VEGF). But it was also shown that cannabis is doing the same thing, with little to no harsh side effects. 

Medical Cannabis Treatment for Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

The stereotypical image of cannabis use is to smoke a joint. Nevertheless, cannabis products range from tinctures and sprays to edibles in a wide variety of types and styles

Here are some of the most common medical cannabis consumption methods:

  • Smoking: For both medicinal and recreational users, smoking is the most common way of using weed. Before you start rolling a joint, though, remember that long-term marijuana smoking can lead to lung damage just like smoking tobacco products.
  • Vaping: Consider vaping if you prefer to inhale cannabis but don’t want the increased risk of breathing harm. Vaporizing cannabis produces a lower number of toxins compared to smoking, making it a better alternative for long-term use.
  • Edibles: Edible marijuana products are intended to be delicious and accessible to all types of users, from gummies to brownies. Edibles take longer than vaping or smoking to “kick in,” but often the effects are more intense and lasting.
  • Topicals: Topical products are another popular option for medicinal users, including salves, creams, lotions, sprays and ointments, topical pain relief and inflammation without the risk of “high” marijuana.

Even if you’ve used marijuana before, experiment with a few different methods — you might find a new favorite.

Macular degeneration is often a frightening, discouraging condition. However, medical marijuana could give hope to you or someone you love.

Work closely with a licensed marijuana physician and pharmacy to find the right form of medical marijuana for your unique needs — physicians will be able to give you customized and professional expertise in finding the ideal type of cannabis.

Personalized Cannabis Consultations

Whether you are new to cannabis and need to learn the basics, or are simply trying to achieve more positive cannabis experiences, Veriheal’s coaches are here to help. You have the opportunity to become informed about this wonderful plant. Book an appointment today with one of our compassionate coaches to have a private discussion about your cannabis journey.

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Data Last Updated 03/16/2020