Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the number one cause of irreversible vision loss in people over 60. While there’s no cure, there are things you can do to prevent or slow this eye disease’s progression.
AMD occurs when a problem develops with the part of your eye responsible for your central vision: the macula. The macula is the central part of your retina, and as you get older you may experience symptoms, such as:
- Loss of clarity in your vision
- Dark or blurry areas in the center of your vision
- Problems seeing color
- Visual distortions or haziness
As the disease progresses, you might lose the ability to read or to recognize faces, and driving becomes difficult.
Two Types: Wet vs. Dry
There are two forms of AMD:
DRY: This type involves tiny, yellow deposits of cellular debris (drusen) that accumulate on the macula. Some scattered drusen aren’t a problem, but as they grow in size and number, your vision can become distorted. Next, the light-sensitive cells in your macula thin out and eventually die, causing blind spots and, eventually, loss of central vision.
WET: With this form, blood vessels grow from underneath the macula, then leak blood and fluid into your retina. This can cause your vision to be distorted, as well as blind spots and loss of central vision. As these vessels continue to bleed, they form scars, which causes permanent central vision loss.
How to Know If You’re at Risk for AMD
There are a number of risk factors for macular degeneration. For starters, because it’s an age-related eye disease, being older than 60 is a primary risk factor.
Other risks include:
- Family history of the disease
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Unhealthy diet
- Being light-skinned
- Being female
Preventing AMD: Actions to Take Now
Although there is no cure for AMD, you can still protect your vision with some proactive steps to both prevent the disease and slow its progression.
If you already have AMD…
TAKE CERTAIN SUPPLEMENTS
Ask your doctor about certain supplements that studies have shown can slow the disease. These include vitamins C and E, zinc, copper, zeaxanthin, and lutein.
ASK YOUR DOCTOR ABOUT TREATMENT OPTIONS
There are a number of medications on the market that have been shown to block blood vessels from growing underneath the macula and to stop blood and fluid leaking from existing blood vessels in the area. Some people have even claimed to have restored vision from these anti-angiogenesis drugs.
Other therapies include:
- Laser therapy that destroys abnormal blood vessels in the eye
- Low-vision aids and devices that help people make the most of their remaining vision
- Surgery to remove abnormal blood vessels
Whether you are at risk or have already been diagnosed, protect your eyes by…
HAVING REGULAR EYE EXAMS
You should see your eye doctor every two to three years if you’re between the ages of 45 and 60, and every year if you are 60 or older. Seeing your eye doctor regularly can help you monitor and protect your eye health, especially important if you are at risk for AMD or other eye diseases.
Breaking out the shades is perhaps the easiest thing you can do to help prevent AMD. That’s because frequent, direct sun exposure has been associated with AMD and other damage to the eyes.
Stop smoking to reduce the risk of getting AMD. Smokers are up to four times more likely than non-smokers to have AMD.
Dark, leafy greens in particular can play a big part in the prevention of AMD. One eye disease study showed that increasing the frequency of intake of spinach, collard greens, or kale (all of which are high in carotenoids) could lower the risk of AMD.
You should also add more fatty fish (think salmon, tuna and sardines) to your diet. People who eat fish at least three times a week were less likely to have develop or have advanced AMD.
Likewise for those who eat fruits and nuts daily and limit their consumption of refined carbohydrates.
KEEP YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE & CHOLESTEROL IN CHECK
Following the eating guidelines above, as well as regular exercise, can help you with this one. Links have been found between high blood pressure and high cholesterol and the risk of advanced AMD.
Focusing on maintaining a healthy weight, along with good blood pressure and cholesterol, is important for maintaining the health of your eyes.