Hormones, Epigenetics, and Macular Degeneration

Science and technology are always changing in the treatment and management of macular degeneration. Even with these advances, the exact cause and development of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is not well known.

Scientists and doctors have been looking at how hormones and epigenetics play a role in the development of AMD.

What is epigenetics?

Epigenetics is the study of how genes are turned on or off without changing the actual DNA code. This is important because scientists are able to study how genes can be turned off or on and how this relates to disease.1

An example of this is the fact that our bodies have all types of cells, but only one DNA code. Cells are expressed differently, but the code sequence remains the same. Epigenetics explores how the expression of the genes relates to wellness and disease.

What are epigenetic influences on age-related macular degeneration?

Epigenetic influences on AMD are complicated and remain not fully understood. Research has shown that certain factors do play a role in influencing the development of AMD and can impact turning on or off the genes related to AMD.1

If the body is unable to balance the damaging atoms of the body with its detoxifying ability, the result is what is known as oxidative stress. This stress then can turn on or off various genes which have been shown to influence AMD.2

What are hormones?

Hormones are chemicals inside the body that control different things. Hormones travel in the blood to different organs of the body, telling the organs to do different things. Blood pressure regulation, sleep, and hunger are all controlled by hormones.3

How do hormones play a role in macular degeneration?

Like epigenetics, the exact hormone action in macular degeneration is not well known. Research has shown that thyroid hormones are known to regulate various visual functions. Those with an increased level of a certain thyroid hormone known as T4 have an increased risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Thyroid hormone dysfunction has also been linked to cardiovascular health problems, such as increased vessel plaque and heart disease. It is for this reason that scientists can then link vessel and heart problems to the development of AMD, all which are common to thyroid dysfunction.3,4

Some studies have suggested that postmenopausal hormone treatment may reduce the risk of AMD. However, consistency of treatment effectiveness is not found in these studies and have not been reproduced.5

This does not mean that all with thyroid hormonal dysfunction go on to develop macular degeneration. This is the great mystery scientists and doctors are trying to solve—why do some go on to develop the disease while others do not?

Why are there still so many unknowns?

Exact causes and factors of developing macular degeneration are not known. There are known increased risk factors and populations at greater risk, but why is it that the science is not there to be able to pinpoint exact answers on macular degeneration?

Unfortunately, disease processes are complex and the factors that lead to them are even more involved. There are so many variances to epigenetics and hormones that it is very difficult to determine exact causes.

The good news? Science is constantly evolving and new studies and research teach us more about how hormones and epigenetics relate to macular degeneration.

What about hormone or alternative therapy for macular degeneration?

When searching for treatments and answers, many will find alternative therapies that claim to cure what doctors have tried to treat and cure for centuries. Remember that “alternative therapies” are not descriptive and are usually not regulated. Always look at these options with a critical eye and bring your questions to your doctor.

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