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Untreated macular degeneration is one of the leading causes of blindness in those over 65 years old.
While researchers have not yet discovered a cure for age-related macular degeneration (AMD), there are treatment options which prevent the disease from progressing to blindness, and in some cases, they can even improve vision. It’s important to have an open discussion with your eye doctor about the risks and limitations of AMD treatments.
Types of Macular Degeneration:
There are 2 basic types of AMD, the wet form and the dry form.
- Dry macular degeneration is considered the less aggressive form of AMD. It typically progresses much more slowly, and the level of eyesight damage is less severe. Dry AMD is detected during routine eye exams, which is why it’s important to have yearly testing. Treating Dry AMD often involves high doses of zinc and antioxidants which have been shown to slow diseases progression.
- Wet macular degeneration is the more severe form of AMD. It occurs when there is abnormal blood vessel growth (angiogenesis), and leakage, which can cause scar tissue to develop. Treatments include laser surgery, injecting light-sensitive dyes, or AMD medication injected directly into the eye to inhibit angiogenesis.
AMD is an age-related eye disease that runs in families and is a leading cause of blindness in our aging population. There is no cure for this ocular disease, and AMD related vision loss is cannot usually be recovered. There are treatments, and preventative measures that can be taken, if detected early, so routine eye exams are essential.
Macular Degeneration: Who is at risk?
There are many risk factors for Macular Degeneration. Some of these risk factors are things that you cannot control, and some are things that you can control.
Risk Factors that you can’t control:
Age – Age is a major risk factor for AMD. The disease is most likely to occur after age 60, but it can occur earlier.
Gender – AMD is more common in women than men
Eye Color – AMD is more common in people with blue eyes
Smoking – Research shows that smoking doubles the risk of AMD.
Race – AMD is more common among Caucasians than among African-Americans or Hispanics/Latinos.
Family history and Genetics – People with a family history of AMD are at higher risk. At last count, researchers had identified nearly 20 genes that can affect the risk of developing AMD. Many more genetic risk factors are suspected.
Risk Factors you can control:
Smoking – Smoking increases your risk, especially if AMD runs in your family
Diet – A poor diet, low in antioxidants and high in saturated fats and processed foods.
Obesity – People who are very overweight have a higher risk of AMD.Exercise – A sedentary lifestyle contributes to AMD.
Cholesterol – High cholesterol is bad for your eyes and your heart.Blood Pressure – High blood pressure may be involved in AMD.
Sun Exposure – Ultraviolet and blue light from the sun and electronics can damage the eye.
What Steps Can You Take to Decrease Your Risk for AMD?
To decrease your risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, or to decrease the rate of progression if you already have age-related macular degeneration, here are some actions you can take:
- Don’t smoke – and if you do smoke, try to stop. Don’t eat packaged, processed foods, as much as possible. Don’t eat artificial fats.
- Eat real bakery goods, made with real fat – just don’t eat the whole box.
- Do wear sunglasses, preferably with an amber, brown, or orange tint that blocks blue light.
- Do eat lots of dark green leafy vegetables. These vegetables – such as kale, spinach, and collards – contain lutein, a substance that neutralizes the free radicals that will otherwise cause damage to the macula. If you are taking Coumadin and can’t eat these vegetables because of the vitamin K in them, you can take a lutein supplement.
- Do eat lots of omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fish, fish oil, flaxseeds, and some nuts. Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation.
- Do control your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
- Do exercise regularly and keep your weight down.