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Are You at Risk for Age-Related Macular Degeneration?

By Essilor News

Our bodies go through many changes as we age, but nothing as scary as losing your vision. The truth is, vision loss, and even blindness, is a real problem for people over the age of 50. The leading cause of vision loss in this age group is age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD deteriorates the macula, which is the part of the retina responsible for sharp, central vision. In most cases, AMD advances slow enough that symptoms can go unnoticed. In other cases, AMD can lead to a sudden loss of vision in one or both eyes. Central vision loss from AMD makes it difficult to recognize faces, drive a car, and read, among other up-close activities.

Forms of Macular Degeneration
There are two different forms of macular degeneration - dry macular degeneration and wet macular degeneration.

Dry macular degeneration is the most common form and has three stages - early, intermediate, and advanced. It happens when the cells in the macula slowly break down and the macula tissue thins and stops functioning properly.

Wet macular degeneration is an advanced form of AMD and can be more severe. It occurs when newly formed blood vessels under the macula leak blood and fluid, resulting in blurred central vision. Those who suffer from the wet form of AMD had the dry form first - dry AMD can turn into wet AMD at any time.

Who is at Risk for Age-Related Macular Degeneration?
Macular degeneration is associated with aging, generally occurring in people age 50 and older with the risk increasing as they continue to age. Research also suggests there is a significant hereditary connection between the development of AMD and the presence of a variant of a particular gene known as complement factor H.

In addition, there are a few lifestyle factors that may contribute to the development of AMD:

  • Race - Caucasians are at a higher risk for developing AMD than other races
  • Gender - Women develop AMD at an earlier age than men
  • Smoking - Research suggests that smoking increases the risk of AMD two-fold
  • Obesity - Studies show that overweight patients with macular degeneration had more than double the risk of developing advanced forms of the disorder
  • Blue light hazards - Research also shows that exposure to a specific band of blue light, emitted from the sun and artificial light sources found in our homes, buildings, and digital devices, is found to have a harmful effect on the retina and is a risk factor for the onset of AMD

How to Prevent Age-Related Macular Degeneration
There currently is no cure for age-related macular degeneration, so early detection is key. The earlier AMD is diagnosed, the better the chances of preventing vision loss.

Aside from quitting smoking and maintaining a healthy weight, there are other lifestyle changes that can be made to reduce the risk of AMD.

Studies have shown a link between nutrition and the progression of dry AMD. A diet rich in low-fat foods, dark green, leafy vegetables, and eye-friendly nutrients such as lutein/zeaxanthin, vitamin C, vitamin E, and zinc may help reduce the risk of AMD.

Those at risk for AMD or anyone who spends time out in the sun or staring at artificial light sources such as computers, should talk to their eye doctor about eyeglass lenses that help protect eyes from harmful blue light that contributes to premature aging of the eyes.

Is There a Treatment for Age-Related Macular Degeneration?
If detected early, there are a few treatment options for wet AMD that can help slow the rate of central vision loss. An eye doctor can provide more information on the various treatment options.