Being told you are at high risk of going blind is probably something most people never imagine they will hear, especially after being told you have an incurable eye disease. So what exactly is this eye disease? Enter macular degeneration.
Age-related macular degeneration is a disease that affects vision due to damage to the central part of the retina. In the U.S., macular degeneration affects nearly 10 million people. However, although the disease may cause blindness, it’s not guaranteed. There are several factors, both controllable and uncontrollable, that may put you at risk of macular degeneration.
Age: The older you are, the more likely you are to develop AMD.
• Genetics: People with a family history of AMD are more prone to it.
• Light-eyed people: People with light colored eyes (e.g., blue-eyed people) are at risk because they have lower levels of pigment in their eyes.
• Poor-sighted people: People with severe near or farsightedness are more at risk.
• Women: Because they generally live longer, women are more prone to developing AMD than men.
• Being overweight
• Poor diet
• High blood pressure
• Unchecked cardiovascular disease
• Long-term sun exposure
• If you have one or more of these factors, don’t be afraid to speak with your doctor to obtain more information about AMD and to stay up to date about onset symptoms. Regardless of risk or symptoms, doctors should also have conversations with patients regarding AMD before any diagnosis so patients are knowledgeable about the disease.
However small these measures might be, they still have a significant impact on decreasing the risk or progression of AMD.
1. Wear sunglasses: Probably the best advice for eye care is wearing sunglasses, no matter your age. Long-term sun exposure is a controllable risk factor. Always be sure to carry a pair with you wherever you are or go! Be sure to purchases sunglasses that have UV or blue light protection.
2. Don’t put off eye checkups: Age-related macular degeneration is often detected through eye exams before noticeable symptoms are present. Never ignore symptoms like blurry vision, straight lines looking wavy or gray, or dark spots in the center of your vision. Although these symptoms may not be AMD-related, they should still be examined by a doctor.
3. Don’t smoke: Smoking can put you at a higher risk of AMD, as well as a host of other diseases. Smoking can also reduce the number of protective nutrients delivered by the bloodstream to the eyes.
4. Exercise regularly: Boost your overall health by exercising frequently. Begin by walking for half an hour every day, and eventually work your way up to more rigorous activities like jogging, sports, or yoga.
5. Eat right: Who knew eating right could help your retinas? Fruits and vegetables like corn, peaches, and orange peppers have high amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants found naturally in the center of the retina that need to be replenished regularly. Nuts like almonds and walnuts, and seafood like salmon and oysters, are all good food for your eyes.
According to Chip Goehring, founder and president of the American Macular Degeneration Foundation, he is living proof that by eating right and taking proper preventative measures, you can still keep your sight– even 20 years after being diagnosed with AMD. As Chip says, “the disease may be incurable, but it’s definitely not insurmountable.”
Always tell your practitioner about abnormal eye symptoms and do your part to take care of your overall health by avoiding unhealthy activities, opting to be more active, and eating right.