Macular Degeneration: Understanding Your Risk Factors

macular degenerationThe thought of being diagnosed with macular degeneration can be anxiety-inducing—after all, the disease is the leading cause of vision loss in older adults. That’s why it is important to understand the disease and to know your risk factors and the steps you can take to reduce that risk.

Macular degeneration is considered an age-related disease, as it most commonly affects adults aged 50 and older. The macula is the most sensitive part of the retina and provides sharp, detailed central vision. As the disease progresses, the fine detail is lost. This loss can be rapid or slow, but it won’t cause complete blindness as peripheral vision is maintained.

There are some risk factors involved with macular degeneration. Typically smokers, people of Caucasian descent, and people with a family history of the disease are most at risk. However, some lifestyle choices can be made to decrease your chance of developing the disease including:

  • Not smoking;
  • Eating a low-fat and nutrient-rich diet;
  • Exercising;
  • Maintaining healthy weight and blood pressure;
  • And avoiding prolonged UV exposure, especially for those with light-colored eyes.

It may also be pertinent to add “vision” foods to your diet—these are foods abundant in carotenoids, vitamins C and E, and omega-3 fatty acids. These foods include dark green, yellow, and orange fruits and vegetables, eggs, nuts and nut oils, whole grains, tuna, salmon, and flaxseed oil.  Adding Lutein and Zeaxanthin to your vitamin regimen can be beneficial, as well.

There are two forms of macular degeneration: wet and dry. Dry is overwhelmingly the most common, as it accounts for 90 percent of cases. The symptoms are blurred vision, dulled colors, increased need for light, and geographic atrophy, which is blurred spot in the center of vision.

Wet always starts out dry and is significantly more severe, so it is important to have your Optometrist perform regular Amsler tests and evaluations. Wet macular degeneration occurs when blood vessels grow under the macula, break, and cause the macula to swell. However, it can be treatable with injections, laser surgery, and photodynamic therapy. So if straight lines appear wavy and you have a blind spot, request a macular degeneration evaluation.

Eye health is important, so make an appointment with our Carrollton eye doctors as soon as any change to your vision is noticed.