It’s well known that cholesterol can clog your arteries, but it seems it can interfere with your eyes as well. The good news regarding this discovery is that anti-cholesterol drugs may not only benefit people with atherosclerosis but those with the eye problem as well, according to researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
A research team evaluated cells from mice and humans and showed how cholesterol is involved in both macular degeneration and atherosclerosis. Going a step further, they found that macrophages, which act as cholesterol and fat removal crews, need help from a protein called ABCA1.
Dr. Apte and his team took cells from patients with AMD and then assessed these cells in the laboratory. Later on, they found out that the existing anti-cholesterol drugs also contain certain components that can be useful for human eye.
According to Dr. Apte, his team has later discovered that these eye drops drugs are also capable of stopping the growth of harmful blood vessels in the eyes, which causes AMD development. The initial result was based on the test they conducted on an ageing mouse with AMD condition.
But people with macular degeneration don’t have enough ABCA1, which in turn causes macrophages to become overloaded with cholesterol. This process then leads to a process by which new blood vessels are formed that damage the macula, characteristic of the wet form of macular degeneration.
Until scientists are able to develop a treatment that addresses the buildup of cholesterol in macular degeneration, patients with the eye disease and those at risk need other ways to prevent and fight the disease. One suggestion comes from the results of the National Eye Institute’s Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS).
That study showed how taking specific nutrients could reduce the risk of progressing from dry to wet macular degeneration. Those nutrients include vitamin C (500 mg), vitamin E (400 IU), beta-carotene (15 mg), zinc (80 mg), and copper (2 mg, as cupric oxide).
Additional nutrients, lutein and zeaxanthin, were reported to show evidence “associated with a lower risk of prevalence and incidence” of macular degeneration in a recent systematic review. Several studies have also reported that omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce the risk of the eye disease.
Some general guidelines for the prevention of macular degeneration also should be considered. They include:
- Do not smoke
- Wear sunglasses and a hat to protect your eyes from sunlight
- Maintain a healthy blood pressure
- Eat a low-cholesterol diet; include lots of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables and fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids
- Maintain a healthy weight
The search for effective and safe ways to prevent and treat macular degeneration continues, and cholesterol busters may be one of the next treatments to reach the market. Until then, there are other treatment options for macular degeneration.