Know the Eight Risk Factors for Macular-Degeneration

Macular-degeneration is one of the greatest threats to our vision as we age. Age related macular-degeneration (AMD) is characterized by light sensitive cells in the macula deteriorating and causing a loss of central vision. The macula is a small spot in the middle of the retina that provides the greatest visual acuity and color perception.

About 30 percent of people of sixty-five years of age or older request medical intervention for various degrees of AMD. AMD is a chronic condition that causes central vision loss. It affects millions of Americans and is the most common cause of severe vision loss in people 50 and older. The older you are, the greater your chance of being affected.

Although AMD reduces vision in the central part of the retina, it usually does not affect peripheral vision. Even in more advanced cases, some people tend to have enough useful peripheral vision to provide a degree of independent living capability.

Oxidative stress is thought to play a major role in the development of AMD. Oxidative stress is the result of free-radical action. The free-radical theory of aging suggests that our cells accumulate free radical damage over time. Diet and nutrition are essential counter measures to free radicals and to protect our healthy eyes. While the literature suggests that there is no cure or treatment for AMD, the carotenoid, lutein, and other nutrients may help prevent AMD.

Nutritional supplements do not cure or prevent illness and disease.  They only give the body the extra nutrition it needs to take care of itself!  A healthy lifestyle starts with good nutrition.

Eight Major Risk Factors for macular-degeneration:

  1. High blood pressure
  2. High cholesterol
  3. Obesity
  4. Smoking
  5. Age. People aged 50 or older have a higher risk.
  6. Genetics – If AMD runs in your family, you may have a higher risk.
  7. Gender – Women are more likely to get AMD than men.
  8. Race – AMD is more common in Caucasians.

Many people with AMD have deposits of drusen under the retina. Drusen are tiny yellow or white accumulations of extracellular material. The presence of drusen is one of the most common early signs. Drusen alone usually do not cause vision loss but when they grow in size or number, there is an increased risk for developing more severe AMD. Early detection is the key to avoiding vision loss.

There are two types of age related macular-degeneration, dry and wet. The wet type is the more serious form. About ten percent of people with AMD suffer with the wet type. Many of these people develop significant vision loss. Wet AMD results when abnormal blood vessels form underneath the retina. These new blood vessels leak fluid or blood and blur central vision. Vision loss may be rapid and severe. Ninety percent of people with AMD have the dry type. This condition is caused by damage (oxidative stress) and result in thinning of macular tissue. Vision loss is usually gradual.

AMD can cause different symptoms in different people. Some people hardly notice AMD in its early stages. Sometimes only one eye loses vision while the other eye continues to see well for many years. Symptoms of AMD include:

  • Words on a page look blurred
  • A dark or empty area appears in the center of vision
  • Straight lines look distorted
  • Objects appearing smaller or farther away

Many people do not realize that they have a problem with their macula until blurred vision becomes obvious. Your ophthalmologist can detect early stages of AMD during a medical eye examination. Regular appointments with an ophthalmologist are essential for protection of your precious sight.

For references and suggested reading:

  • "eye disease." Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite. Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 2011.
  • Go to retirement resources.

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