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Supplement key to slowing wet macular degeneration

According to new research published in the British Medical Journal’s Ophthalmology, the progression of a potentially devastating form of partial blindness, wet macular degeneration, can be slowed by taking a supplement loaded with antioxidants, zinc and copper.

The macula is the part of the eye we use for reading, watching TV, writing and doing any fine work. In wet age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, abnormal blood vessels grow underneath the retina. These vessels can leak fluid and blood, which can damage the macula. The result can be devastating.

Injections into the eye using anti-VEGF drugs have proven to be monumental in slowing the inflammation inside the eye that is apart and parcel with this problem.

Researchers in the United Kingdom looked at the prevalence of wet AMD in men and women age 55 and older and found that taking a daily supplement containing anti-VEGF agents (it stands for “vascular endothelial growth factor”) lowered the risk of developing wet AMD in the first place.

And wet AMD patients who took anti-VEGF supplements gained additional time living without impaired vision, improving their lives using a measure known as quality-adjusted life year. Those taking the supplements scored 10.59 QALYs, compared to 10.43 for those not given the supplements.

While there would still be savings to be made by giving supplements to people with intermediate stage wet AMD in both eyes, the argument for funding the treatment for people with the condition in one eye is extremely strong, researchers say.

Stopped cold

Here’s one more reason not to get an antibiotic for that cold. Research published in the Journal of the American Society for Microbiology examined multidrug-resistant salmonella, looking at how the bacteria reacted to antibiotics in the test tube.

“Understanding the influence of antibiotics on multidrug-resistant bacteria is critical to the proper selection and prudent use of antibiotics while minimizing potential collateral consequences,” the research noted. That is, we need to understand problems with resistance.

Bacteria move around by darting, gliding, sliding, swarming, swimming and twitching. Using novel techniques, the researchers found that some antibiotics supposedly designed to prevent the bacteria from moving actually increased bacterial movement. This is an important issue when you think about how often antibiotics are given inappropriately for viral infections.

So what to do? If you’re sick and don’t have a fever greater than 101.5, aren’t suffering from a serious disease or aren’t taking strong medications such as prednisone, the chances you need an antibiotic are slim to none.

Yes, you may feel horrible – and having one of those nasty viral infections certainly is awful – but hold on and do some simple things that will encourage your body to take action on its own.

First off, focus on hydration. Too many people stop drinking when they’re sick. If you’re not properly hydrated, your body is not in optimal condition for fighting off the bug. You can tell if you’re hydrated enough by looking at your urine. If it’s concentrated and dark, you should drink more fluid.

What should that be? Water is just fine. Some juice is good if you aren’t eating much, as it may give you calories you’re not otherwise getting.

Next, hydrate the air with a vaporizer. Humidifiers are great not only for children but for adults. Ultrasonic humidifiers are the best because they are the quietest and produce the smallest droplets that are more likely to get into your lungs where they need to be. This is to help create the secretions you need so you can cough things up and breathe easier.

Third, take acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen for fever or chills. And finally, think about eating foods that are easy to digest to allow you to get the calories you need. That’s where the old standby, chicken soup, comes in – or if you’re a vegetarian, try the broth and veggie soup of your choice. It also can have the extra benefit of reminding you of mom, something all of us want when we’re down and out.

I often will go one step further and rub myself with Vicks VapoRub, as it reminds me of what my own mom would do when I had a chest cold. There’s no scientific medical reason to do this, but it sure feels good – and when you’re sick, that counts a long way. Stay well.

Dr. Zorba Paster is a family physician, professor at University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, and host of the public radio program “Zorba Paster on Your Health,” which airs at noon Wednesdays on 91.1 FM, and noon Sundays on 91.9 FM. His column appears twice a month in The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at askzorba@ doctorzorba.com.