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Age-related macular degeneration is a condition responsible for the majority of vision loss in the elderly, or those who are aged above 50 years. It can cause slow visual impairment that gradually leads to vision loss or rapidly cause vision loss.
People who suffer from age-related macular degeneration are known to lose their central vision while still having peripheral vision, but this makes them unable to see what is right in front of them.
Although there is no complete blindness due to age-related macular degeneration, it can still deteriorate the quality of life. Age-related macular degeneration can either affect one eye or both eyes as well. (1)
Prevention of Age-Related Macular Degeneration
These simple measures can help you steer clear of age-related macular degeneration.
1. Quit smoking
You should stop smoking as soon as possible. Smoking is associated with an increased risk of suffering from age-related macular degeneration. This is because smoking exposes you to unsafe chemicals and free radicals that are responsible for damaging the body cells including the eyes. (2)
Here are some tips for quitting smoking:
- Try nicotine replacement therapy after consulting a doctor.
- Chew on sugarless gum or hard candy.
- Exercise as it can help distract you from cravings.
- Seek help from a family member, friend, or support group.
2. Check your family history
Those who have a family history of age-related macular degeneration are at a higher risk of developing it. So, if you know of anyone in your family who suffers from this condition, you may need to pay attention to the smallest signs and symptoms to slow down the disease progression.
The potential signs to look for include: (3)
- Sensitivity to light
- Unable to adapt to dim light
- Confusing straight and wavy lines
- Unable to recognize faces
3. Protect yourself from the sun
It is known from research that UV rays and even blue light are responsible for damaging the retinal wall in your eyes. Continued exposure to sunlight may cause an increased risk of age-related macular degeneration. Therefore, protecting yourself from sun rays by wearing appropriate eyewear is a good option. (4)
4. Follow the right diet and supplementation
Vitamins and antioxidants are very important for protecting your eyes from diseases as both these components of the diet provide protection from cell damage. So, try to include the following in your diet: (5)
- Bell peppers
- Brussels sprouts
You can also try eating fatty fish for more intake of omega-3 fatty acids, which may help prevent age-related macular degeneration.
Also, remember that vitamins are an important part of your diet. Those who consume meals deficient in vitamins should consider taking multivitamins. This is especially crucial for those who are at risk for age-related macular degeneration.
Multivitamin supplementation is good even for those who have mild age-related macular degeneration as it may decrease the risk of advanced or more severe age-related macular degeneration. (6)
According to studies, a combination of vitamins is linked to slowing the development of age-related macular degeneration. The supplements to be taken involve:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Beta carotene
Note: Take supplements only after consulting a medical professional.
5. Maintain a healthy weight
If you have a healthy weight, you are more likely to have healthy blood circulation, which allows good blood flow to your eyes. Poor blood circulation causes a reduced supply of blood to the eyes, which contributes to the development of age-related macular degeneration. (7)
Here are some ways to maintain a healthy weight:
- Eat healthily and cut sugars or carbs.
- Stay hydrated by drinking enough water every day.
- Monitor your calorie intake.
- Start doing physical activity regularly.
- Get a good amount of sleep every night.
6. Monitor your blood pressure
Inadequately controlled hypertension can cause the development of age-related macular degeneration via various pathways.
Studies have shown that high blood pressure increases the risk of age-related macular degeneration through damaging retinal vessels or aggregating vascular dysfunction.
Research also suggests that antihypertensive therapy is associated with an improvement in the risk of age-related macular degeneration. (8)
Signs and Symptoms of Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration may not come with any signs and symptoms initially, but in some cases, the following can be experienced: (1)
- Blurring of vision
- Dark spots in the central vision field
- Unable to differentiate straight from curved lines
- Reduced contrast
- Distortion of images
- Changes in color vision
- Loss of central vision
Most-Asked Questions About Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Who is at risk of developing age-related macular degeneration?
The name itself points out how age-related macular degeneration is developed, mainly by the elderly, but others who may be at risk include: (10)
- Those with a family history of age-related macular degeneration
- Those who are regular smokers
- Those who have unhealthy dietary habits such as eating saturated fats
- Those who suffer from heart issues such as hypertension
- Those who are obese or overweight
What are dry and wet age-related macular degeneration?
- Dry age-related macular degeneration: The majority of people with age-related macular degeneration have the dry kind. It is when protein starts to deposit under the macula region, leading to slow and gradual vision loss. The dry form may progress further to cause the wet kind of age-related macular degeneration. (11)
- Wet age-related macular degeneration: This is when there is the development of abnormal blood vessels under the macula that causes blood and cellular fluid to leak. This buildup of fluid causes age-related macular degeneration that is more advanced and highly serious. It can lead to quick vision loss. (11)
How to diagnose age-related macular degeneration?
Age-related macular degeneration can be diagnosed using the following: (12)
- Visual field test: It checks whether you can clearly see the straight lines or if there’s a level of distortion using the Amsler grid.
- Fluorescein angiography: A dye called fluorescein is used to look for a fluid leak or buildup under the macula in the eyes.
- Dilated eye exam: The doctor will add eye drops to dilate your eyes and examine them for age-related macular degeneration.
Age-related macular degeneration is a common eye disease that is known to hinder central vision.
As the name suggests, age-related macular degeneration affects a part of the retinal wall of the eye called the macula, which is responsible for controlling central vision. This is why there isn’t complete blindness as the peripheral vision is fine and the affected person can see things on the sides.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent developing this condition.