Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a serious condition that can threaten your vision and is a leading cause of vision loss among people age 50 and older. The central area of the retina, called the macula, is made up of millions of light-sensing cells that provide sharp, central vision. Macular degeneration is a deterioration of this sensitive part of the eye, which can lead to central vision loss. This affects the ability to see fine details, recognize faces, read, drive, watch television and even use a computer.
Who is at risk for AMD?
Age is a major risk factor, as the name of the condition implies. The disease is most likely to occur after age 60, but it can occur earlier. AMD is most common among Caucasians. People with a family history and smokers are at higher risk.
How can macular degeneration be prevented?
There are ways to reduce your risk, even if you have a genetic predisposition. Here are 6 ways to prevent AMD and the vision loss that accompanies it:
1. Stop Smoking
Smoking, and even living with a smoker, have been shown to significantly increase your risks of developing AMD to between 2-5 times the risk of non-smokers! If you also have a hereditary risk, smoking multiplies that risk tremendously.
2. Get Active
Studies show that obesity and a sedentary lifestyle increase the risk of advanced macular degeneration that leads to significant vision loss. Maintaining a healthy weight and being active can reduce your risk. That could be as easy as regular walking, at least 3 times a week for 30 minutes.
3. Control Blood Pressure
Since the eye contains many tiny blood vessels, high blood pressure can have a serious impact on the health of your eyes. Have your blood pressure checked by your doctor and follow any medical advice you are given to reduce high blood pressure, whether that includes diet, exercise or medication.
4. Choose a Healthy Diet
A diet rich in antioxidants has been shown to protect against AMD. Antioxidants can be found in abundance in dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, kale and collard greens, as well as orange fruits and vegetables such as peppers, oranges, mango and cantaloupe. Eating a wide range of fresh fruits and vegetables, 5-9 servings a day, as well as fish, which contain Omega-3, and avoiding sugar and processed foods will help to keep your body healthy in many ways, including reducing your risk of AMD.
5. Use UV and Blue Light Protection
Long-term exposure to UV rays from the sun and blue light (from digital devices among other things) have been linked to AMD. Make sure you wear sunglasses every time you are exposed to sunlight and wear blue light blocking glasses when you are viewing a digital device or computer for extended periods of time.
6. Take Supplements*
Certain nutritional supplements have been shown to slow the progression of AMD and the vision loss that accompanies it. This formula of supplements was developed from a 10 year study of 3,500 people with AMD called the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) and its successor AREDS2. It is not recommended to take supplementation as a preventative measure but rather only if you are diagnosed with intermediate or advanced AMD.
*Speak to Dr. Nate or Dr. Beth before you make a decision about this option.
During your yearly comprehensive eye exam, your eye doctor will screen for early signs of AMD and recommend treatment if it’s detected. If you're at greater risk - because of your age or a family history of AMD - additional testing may be necessary.
AMD can be a devastating disease. If you are aware that you are at risk, it is worthwhile to do everything you can to prevent it from worsening. Take the time to understand AMD and do what it takes to lower your chances of knowing its effects first-hand.