Macular degeneration is a common cause of vision loss and it’s important to know the relevant precautions that can be taken to prevent serious damage to your eyesight.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration (known as AMD) is an eye disease that affects the retina and causes a loss of central vision. This disease is one of the leading causes of severe vision loss in people 50 years and older. The good news is that a better understanding of the disease and its risk factors can help prevent AMD and slow it's progression.
There are two types of AMD, dry and wet. Around 80% of people with this disease have the dry, less serious form, while fewer suffer from the wet, more severe type. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is one way to promote retinal health and lower your chances of developing either form of AMD. Early detection is another important way to prevent severe consequences of this condition.
There are various decisions we can make throughout our lifetimes that can decrease the chances of developing macular degeneration and other types of damage that develop later in life. That is why it is important not to wait until you approach the age when developing AMD becomes common. If you follow the tips discussed below, you can help prevent the development of this disease. And no matter how old you are, it's never too late to make healthier lifestyle choices.
Smoking is the greatest risk factor for AMD. According to the CDC and many research studies, smoking doubles your chances of developing AMD and causes exposure to dangerous free radicals (unstable molecules) that prevent necessary nutrients from reaching the retina. We cannot stress enough how important it is to stop smoking in order to lower your risk of developing this disease. If you are ready to stop but not sure how, your primary healthcare provider should be able to recommend various smoking cessation methods to help you quit as soon as possible. And even if you smoke and have already been diagnosed with AMD, you can decrease the chances of further damage by quitting smoking.
Monitor Your Health
Your overall health contributes to your eye health and specifically, the risk of developing AMD. It's important to follow your doctor's advice on how to manage your health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, by taking your prescribed medications and doing your best to keep your illnesses under control.
High blood pressure is particularly important to monitor because it restricts blood flow to the eye, which in turn causes oxygen loss in the eye, and can lead to the progression of macular degeneration and more than doubles the risk of developing wet AMD. It's important to consult your doctor on how to lower your blood pressure in such a case. Maintaining a healthy weight and consulting with your doctor about other ways to lower your blood pressure is vital to preventing and reducing the risk of getting macular degeneration.
Routine Eye Exams
It is crucial to schedule routine eye exams to ensure that your eye doctor checks the health of your eyes, including your retina. Anyone from the age of 65 (and even younger), should be checked for signs of macular degeneration, as age is the greatest risk factor, clearly stated in the very name age-related macular degeneration. Also, simply knowing if AMD is in your family history can help you prevent the progression of this disease. That’s why it's important to tell your eye doctor if you have close relatives who have AMD, as there are genetic components to this condition. A comprehensive eye exam can detect an early onset of macular degeneration and greatly reduce the damage that it causes.
A small black and white grid poster, known as an Amsler grid, is very helpful for early home detection. If the lines in the grid appear wavy or start to disappear, there’s a good indication that you need to be evaluated by your eye doctor for AMD. Some of the first noticeable signs of this disease are the perception of distorted lines or blind spots in your central vision. These symptoms can be easily noticed when you regularly do a quick screening using the Amsler grid.
Please speak to your eye doctor about the best course of action to take the proper precautions which can help prevent vision loss from macular degeneration. If you have a family history of this eye condition, it is even more essential to do what you can to protect your eyes from AMD. Please don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment at our office to take control of the health of your eyes. If you would like to schedule an eye exam, you can reach out to your nearest Amplify EyeCare practice either via a call or in-person visit. Our team of eye care professionals is ready and equipped to provide you with the care you need.