Age-Related Macular Degeneration: Can it be Predicted and Prevented?
If there’s one thing that’s inevitable in life, it’s that none of us are getting any younger. With age comes several potential setbacks — one of which happens as a result of unprotected sun exposure and lack of essential nutrition to prevent macular degeneration. The aging process is accompanied by health-related problems that are unexpected and life-altering. Changes in vision and vision loss are one of them. Many adults start having noticeable issues with their vision beginning in their early 40’s to early ’60s. But, regardless of your age, it’s always good to be knowledgeable of the possible risks for eye diseases that exist, and what to look for if unusual symptoms arise.
As the leading cause of severe vision loss, Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is one you want to watch for.you want to watch for. Research has found that an estimated 1.8 million people have been diagnosed with AMD, while another 7.3 million are at risk for AMD.
Which brings us to an important question:
What Is AMD?
AMD is an eye condition that is most often found in adults over the age of 50. This condition results in damage to the macula, “a small spot near the center of the retina and the part of the eye needed for sharp, central vision.” (National Eye Institute). It typically affects the sharpness in the vision of the objects that can be seen out in front of you, while the peripheral vision remains unaffected. The macula is where your 20/20 best central vision exists. It’s the part of the eye with which you aim your vision at. It is the center of concentration of the photoreceptors called cones.
There are two types of AMD:
- Dry AMD (atrophic) – this type is the most common. With dry AMD, the macula starts thinning out and loses its proper function, which slowly results in central vision loss. Once central vision loss occurs, it cannot be repaired.
- Wet AMD (exudative) – this type is less common but poses a greater risk. Wet AMD involves fluids and blood that leak under the macula, causing damage that results in deteriorated central vision.
Signs and symptoms may include:
- Sharpness in vision gradually lost
- Straight lines appear wavier
- Distorted appearance of objects
- Center of vision may have a dark or empty space
Once the central vision is lost, it cannot be repaired.
Total blindness will not occur as a result of the condition, but simple everyday activities, such as: driving, reading, watching TV, or the ability to see faces clearly may become more of a challenge.
Are You at Risk For AMD?
With this particular eye disease, the risk increases with age. However, there are many contributing factors that can heighten the risk for AMD.
The most common factors include:
- Smoking cigarettes
- Increasing age
- Unprotected sun exposure as a youth
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol levels
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Being Caucasian
- Family history
- Unhealthy lifestyle
- Unhealthy diet with the absence of leafy green vegetables
Obviously, not all of these are factors that can be controlled. We can’t undo the excessive amount of sun exposure you had as a kid, 20+ years of smoking, a fair skin tone, or an unhealthy lifestyle — this is part of the downside. But, we can guide you with action steps to help reduce your risk of central vision loss due to preventable AMD.
It starts with LIFESTYLE.
Here are a few things to consider when trying to reduce your risk or slow the progression of AMD:
- Stop or avoid smoking
- Always wear sunglasses when outside during the day
- Exercise regularly throughout the week (walk outside, go for a run, ride your bike…etc.)
- Keep an eye on your blood pressure and cholesterol and try to maintain normal levels
- Eat the right things like leafy green vegetables, fish and fresh fruit
- Take an appropriate eye supplement to get an adequate supply of zeaxanthin and lutein
Whatever is good for your heart is also good for your eyes and brain. That may start with just walking 10 minutes a day and building up stamina from there.
At Brill Eye Center, we believe it’s always better to be proactive than reactive. And, prevention is always less expensive than shots in the eye or surgery for wet macular degeneration. Our doctors are committed to providing the highest standards of preventative eye care in Kansas City to help you and your overall health.
How Do I Know if I Have AMD?
Symptoms of AMD don’t usually surface in the early stages. Therefore, it’s possible you could go weeks or months without realizing the occurrence of AMD.
The most common way to detect whether or not you have AMD is to have a comprehensive eye exam with a detailed view of the retina. Today, a panoramic view of the retina can be accomplished with an Optomap photo that only takes seconds to capture. Of course, traditional dilation may be necessary if your pupils are too small.
Other options to consider are along the preventative route. And, that’s where we come in.
Preventative Testing for AMD
At Brill Eye Center, we use the QuantifEye Macular Pigment Optical Density testing device. This non-invasive test can be performed in minutes and is based on the principle of assessing macular function with flicker photometry developed by the scientists atZeavision.
By using this technology, we’re able to identify decreases in macular function, assess the risk factors of developing macular degeneration years before it occurs and provide action steps to help mitigate the risk of developing AMD.
If you think you may be at risk for AMD, connect with our team at Brill Eye Center to schedule a consultation.
How Can You Treat AMD?
In regards to treating AMD, there are two options two consider:
- Preventative (technology + vitamin supplements)
- Surgical procedures/injections
While there is no cure for dry AMD, researchers have found a link between nutrition and the progression of AMD. Making healthy dietary choices and adding nutritional supplements to your daily intake could help slow down the progression of vision loss.
Supplements that have been found to help reduce the risk of AMD (and other eye diseases) include lutein and zeaxanthin, vitamin C, vitamin E and zinc. EyePromise by Zeavision, provides vitamins and innovative technology that work to “enhance and protect vision.” You can find information about their products here.
As technology continues to change and improve, there are more options to help treat and prevent the progression of AMD. One option to consider is Foresee Home — an early detection device that can catch the progression of wet AMD as early as possible before significant vision loss occurs. ForeseeHome is a simple test that you can take each day from the comfort of your home. This device is for individuals who have been diagnosed with dry AMD and are at high risk for it progressing to wet AMD. Dr. Brill will write you a prescription for this device if you are a candidate and in most cases, insurance covers the cost. Learn more about the benefits of the device and how to get one here.
Discover The Brill Eye Difference
Your vision matters. When it comes to vision health and battling eye diseases (like AMD), you need a team of eye care professionals to help guide and support you every step of the way.
At Brill Eye Center, we’re committed to providing preventative eye care solutions and treatment options to ensure that you obtain the best possible health for your vision. If you or someone you know may be at risk for AMD or other eye diseases, schedule a consultation with us today!