Age Related Macular degeneration represents one of the most significant causes of vision loss in patients over 65. According to the CDC and NEI, nearly 7 million people are at risk of developing this condition. Understanding what causes and what may prevent macular degeneration will allow you to take steps NOW that will decrease your chances of developing ARMD in the future.
What Is Macular Degeneration?
The Macula can be thought of as your “center vision area” it is a portion of the retina (the delicate tissue that lines the back part of our eyes) that allows you to recognize people’s faces and read this blog post. Dry macular degeneration is a chronic eye disease where the macula slowly disintegrates. Wet macular degeneration, is much less common but far more sinister. It occurs when blood vessels behind the retina leak blood and fluid, causing changes in central vision.
Curbing Macular Degeneration
Certain characteristics put individuals at a higher risk of developing macular degeneration. Being Caucasian, persons over 65, and a family history of macular degeneration are strong risk factors outside of your control. Other risk factors, such as obesity, smoking, poor diet, cardiovascular disease, lack of exercise and high cholesterol can be modified through lifestyle change.
Incorporating healthy fruits and vegetables into your diet, reducing caloric intake to manage your weight, quitting smoking, increasing physical activity (walking), and reducing your consumption of saturated and trans fats will lower your cholesterol.
Currently, dry macular degeneration is irreversible. However, it often progresses slowly and certain treatments may reduce the rate of progression. Annual visits to an optometrist for comprehensive eye exams are essential when monitoring the condition. High levels of vitamins A, C, and E as well as zinc and copper may reduce the progression of macular degeneration. Increasing your intake of omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, and other carotenoids may also help as was proven in a large multi center study (AREDS2).
Treatment for wet macular degeneration may include injection of prescription medications, photodynamic therapy, or laser treatment to destroy abnormal blood vessels and prevent new vessel growth. In very advanced cases of macular degeneration, an optometrist may recommend surgery to implant a telescopic lens in one eye.