What Is Macular Degeneration?
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a deterioration of the macula, the key part of the retina responsible for highly detailed vision and central vision. There are two main types of macular degeneration: dry and wet.
Dry AMD occurs when small deposits in the macula called drusen gradually damage the light-sensitive retinal nerve cells, leading to vision loss.
In wet AMD, fragile new blood vessels grow under the macula. When these blood vessels leak blood or fluid, it damages the macula. Although both types of macular degeneration can result in vision loss, wet AMD is the more serious form of the disease as it results in faster and greater vision loss.
Who Is At High Risk for Macular Degeneration?
- age 50+
- a diet high in saturated fat
- High blood pressure
- Family history of AMD
- Cardiovascular disease
6 Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Macular Degeneration
The following have been shown to lower the risk of developing AMD:
If you don’t smoke, don’t start, and if you smoke—quit. Smokers are 4 times more at risk of developing AMD and typically develop the disease around 10 years earlier than non-smokers.
Wear Quality Sunglasses
UV rays from sunlight can put your eyes at risk. So make sure you choose high-quality 100% UVA & UBV filtering sunglasses to block the sun’s harmful UV rays. Consider getting polarized lenses, as they filter out reflected light rays more efficiently. That’s especially important if you spend time on the water, at the beach, in the snow or driving.
Check Your Blood Pressure
High blood pressure not only harms your heart, but restricts oxygenated blood from reaching your eyes. Have your blood pressure checked regularly. If you already have hypertension, consider using an at-home monitor to keep tabs on it.
Eat Healthy and Consider Supplements
Cut out saturated fat, which can raise your blood pressure. Eat fewer animal fats and replace butter with olive oil. Look for plant-based, high-protein alternatives to meat, and eat oily fish like sardines, mackerel and salmon.
Dark, leafy greens are terrific for your eyes. Kale and other greens are full of lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants that promote eye health. If you have dry AMD, ask your optometrist about antioxidant supplements that can slow AMD’s progression.
Know Your Family History
Up to 70% of AMD cases have a genetic component. People with a parent or sibling with AMD have a greater risk of developing this serious sight-threatening eye disease. If you have a family history of this disease, get your eyes frequent eye tested for AMD.
Get Your Eyes Checked Regularly
Everyone should have regular comprehensive eye exams, especially if you’re over 50, have a family history of AMD, hypertension or other risk factors.
An eye exam that screens for AMD typically includes:
- Visual Acuity – tests your ability to read and see an eye chart from various distances
- Pupil Dilation – the optometrist applies eye drops to dilate the pupil so they can examine the inside of your eyes
- Digital Retina Image and/or OCT – full color 3D imaging of the macula to detect leakage from the vessels and measure retinal thickness. This can help the eye doctor diagnose wet AMD, even in the early phases.
- Amsler Grid – The optometrist asks the patient how straight lines on a checkerboard grid appear. The answer “wavy” or “missing” could indicate the presence dry or wet AMD.
Your vision is your gateway to the world. Good vision lets you live an active and independent life, even in your advanced years. Regardless of your age, get your eyes checked regularly, and all the more frequently if you have a family history of AMD or other risk factors.
To schedule your eye exam with our optometrists, contact Natick Eye Associates in Natick today.
What percentage of the population has macular degeneration?
An estimated 8.7% of the global population has macular degeneration. This number is expected to increase from the current 196 million people affected to 288 million by 2040.
Do injections work for wet macular degeneration?
When AMD has progressed to the “wet” phase, anti-VEGF injections can preserve remaining vision by reducing fluid leakage and bleeding from the macular blood vessels.