Loss of visual acuity is normal as we age. The most common cause of vision loss is in this country is due to age-related macular degeneration or AMD and there is no known cure. Knowing who is at the highest risk for developing age-related macular degeneration can help you determine your risk factors and take steps to delay or possibly avoid it.
High Risk Factors for AMD
While AMD can affect anyone at any time, it is most common in adults over the age of 60.
Others at risk are:
- Anyone with a family history of the disease
- People with high blood pressure
- People with high cholesterol
- Those who are obese
- Being a light skinned female with a light eye color
What Is AMD: Symptoms
Age-related macular degeneration is when the central portion of the retina, which is at the back of the eye, begins to deteriorate and a small blurry spot develops in your vision. The macula is in the central part of the retina and responsible for focusing central vision in the eye. In some people AMD progresses slowly, in others, much more quickly. There are two kinds of AMD:
- Dry – this form of AMD is the most common and the cause is not entirely known. Small white or yellowish spots form on the retina and cause it to deteriorate over time
- Wet—while less common, many who start with dry AMD progress to wet or neovascular AMD. Wet macular degeneration is caused by abnormal blood vessels under the retina that break, bleed and leak fluid, damaging the macula and causing it to lift away from its base. This type of AMD usually results in rapid and almost total loss of central vision.
The most common symptom of AMD is the formation of a dark, blurry spot over the center of the eye and a diminished capacity to perceive colors. If you think you might be developing AMD see your eye doctor right away for a definite diagnosis.
How to Reduce Your Risk of AMD
If you are at risk for developing age-related macular degeneration there are several things you can be doing now that could help delay the onset and severity of symptoms.
- Stop smoking - for so many other reasons as well
- Lose weight – obesity is a common risk factor for AMD
- Get high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels under control; this goes hand in hand with losing weight and these two conditions put you at risk for many other fatal diseases.
- Clean up your diet – recent studies have shown the positive affect eating a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids (fish, walnuts, olive oil) and dark green leafy vegetables (kale, spinach, arugula) can have on slowing AMD from developing. Foods rich in vitamins C, E, zinc, copper lutein and zeaxanthin are the best for preventing AMD.
- Supplements – researchers at the National Eye Institute found that of supplements with higher than average doses of vitamin C, E, zinc oxide, copper, beta carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin reduced the risk of developing late AMD, like after age 60.
It should be noted that beta-carotene has been linked to an increased risk of lung cancer so if you are a smoker or ex-smoker you should not take it. Consult your doctor about the safe amount of these supplements and seek out foods rich in these nutrients to help you avoid or delay age related macular degeneration.