Macular degeneration cannot be reversed. However, doctors can slow the progression of this eye disease. Some supplements may have a role in treatment.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a common eye disease in older adults that causes blurry central vision. It’s considered the leading cause of age-related vision loss, affecting an estimated 11 million people in the United States.

AMD is further classified into two types: dry and wet.

Dry AMD is considered an earlier form of the eye disease, where the macula of the eye starts to thin. Wet AMD is a more advanced condition. It consists of rapid vision loss due to macula damage from abnormal blood vessel growth in your eye. Wet AMD isn’t as common as dry AMD.

It’s important to identify AMD early to start treatment that can help reduce effects on your vision. While a doctor may help slow the progression of AMD, it cannot be reversed medically or naturally, despite any claims you may have heard.

Still, certain supplements may have a place in your overall AMD management and treatment plan, as recommended by a doctor.

Here’s what the science currently says about supplements for AMD and how they may be able to slow the progression of this eye disease.

Dry AMD has three stages: early, intermediate, and late. Wet AMD is considered to have only one stage: late. Less commonly, dry AMD may progress to wet AMD.

While research is continuing into AMD and possible treatments, natural supplements may be used, but with some caveats.

According to the National Eye Institute, vitamins and supplements only work in the following situations:

  • intermediate dry AMD in one or both eyes
  • late dry AMD in one eye only

Getting certain nutrients may reduce dry AMD from progressing to later stages or to wet AMD by as much as 25%. Researchers believe that taking specific vitamins and minerals over the long term may reduce oxidative stress that could contribute to such progression.

According to results from the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) 2, the following nutrients and daily dosages may help prevent AMD progression:

  • Vitamin C: 400 milligrams
  • Vitamin E: 400 international units
  • Copper: 2 milligrams
  • Zinc: 80 milligrams
  • Lutein: 10 milligrams
  • Zeaxanthin: 2 milligrams

In such cases, supplements containing these vitamins and minerals may help slow down the progression of AMD. However, supplements cannot reverse AMD, nor can they cure it. You can find such supplements over the counter (OTC) labeled as “AREDS 2” from different brands.

If an eye doctor does recommend supplements, they will likely be used alongside other treatments as part of a comprehensive management plan. Additionally, an eye doctor might recommend eating more foods with the above nutrients, such as leafy greens.

Other nutrients may also be considered, such as beta carotene and selenium, both of which may offer eye protective effects. Original AREDS supplements contained beta carotene, but researchers found possible side effects in current or former smokers.

Another consideration is the potential for supplement toxicity. It’s important that you only take supplements as recommended by a doctor, and after they have confirmed any possible nutrient deficiencies via blood testing.

Also tell a doctor about any other supplements or medications you’re currently taking. Your doctor can help you avoid any potential interactions with AREDS 2 supplements.

The exact treatment for AMD depends on the type you have (dry or wet) as well as its stage.

Speak with an eye doctor about both OTC and prescription options, as well as possible home remedies.

Home remedies and over-the-counter treatment

Depending on your own case of AMD, an eye doctor may recommend AREDS 2 supplements, which are available OTC. Keep in mind these only work to slow the progression of intermediate dry AMD in both eyes or late dry AMD that’s in one eye only.

There are no OTC medications used to treat AMD, but low vision devices may help. Options may include:

  • magnifying glasses
  • handheld computer devices
  • telescopic glasses

Medical treatment

Currently, there’s no medical treatment available for dry AMD. The goal is to instead prevent possible progression to late stages or wet AMD with supplements and lifestyle changes.

Anti-VEGF medications injected into your eyes may treat wet AMD. Another option is a combination of injections and laser therapy called photodynamic therapy (PDT).

A doctor may also refer you to a vision rehabilitation specialist to help you navigate low vision.

If you have any concerns about your vision or are experiencing symptoms of vision loss, contact a doctor for further evaluation.

Symptoms to reach out to a doctor about include:

  • blurriness in your central vision
  • a blurry area in your vision that’s progressively growing larger
  • seeing blank spots
  • trouble seeing or reading in low lighting
  • problems with seeing colors
  • seeing straight lines that look either wavy or crooked (a possible sign of late stage AMD)

While it’s important for adults to get annual eye exams, doing so is even more critical in catching signs of early AMD if you’re over the age of 55, or if the condition runs in your family.

AMD doesn’t cause symptoms in its earlier stages, but an eye doctor can detect it during an exam.

Other strategies that may help prevent AMD include:

AMD is a common eye condition that progresses without treatment. While a doctor may recommend AREDS 2 supplements to help slow this progression, these may only work in certain types and stages, and only when combined with other treatments.

There’s currently no cure for AMD. Additionally, while supplements may help AMD from worsening in some cases, there’s no way to reverse macular degeneration either naturally or medically.

The focus of treatment is to stop progression, which an eye doctor can help with.