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Don't Lose That Healthy Look

Published in Eye Care, For the Health of It Author: Alexander Omann,OD

Know How to Reduce Your Risk of Macular Degeneration

It may begin as not being able to see quite as clearly. But it can lead to taking away how someone moves around, his/her ability to live independently and result in social isolation and poor mental health. There may be no disability that alters one’s life more than vision loss.

It is estimated that 10 million Americans are impacted by Macular Degeneration — making it the leading cause of vision loss. It is caused by deterioration of one’s retina and there is currently no cure for this disease. But that does not mean that nothing can be done about it.


The retina is an area in the back of the eye composed of nerve fibers and photoreceptors. The retina collects the images we see and then sends them from the eye to the brain through the optic nerve. The area of the retina that is responsible for the center of our vision which allows us to see fine detail is called the macula. The macula can become damaged in a variety of different ways, but the leading cause is age-related macular degeneration especially in those over the age of 50.

The two types of macular degeneration are dry or wet.

The dry form is the most common and occurs when there is an accumulation of deposits in the retina - called drusen - pigment changes and progressive thinning of the retina. If this damage is significant enough there can be noticeable vision loss.

The wet form occurs when new blood vessels leak fluid that accumulates at the macula which causes blurred or distorted vision.


Symptoms of macular degeneration can include decreased clarity of central vision, missing areas in the visual field or image distortion where straight lines start to appear wavy or crooked. Patients that are in the early stages likely will likely not have any symptoms, so it is important to get routine eye exams to monitor for any signs of macular degeneration.

Risk factors:

The largest risk factor associated with age-related macular degeneration is within the name itself – age. The risk of developing macular degeneration is most common in those over the age of 50.

The most significant modifiable risk factor is smoking which can increase your risk up to four times more of developing macular degeneration and can speed up the progression of the disease.

There is also a genetic component in macular degeneration, so those with a family history should talk to their primary eye care provider about this increased risk and make sure to get routine eye exams.

Another important risk factor is to consider is ultraviolet light exposure making sunglasses and hats crucial when spending time outdoors.

Other risk factors include ethnicity - the disease is most prevalent in Caucasians. Also, women are more likely to develop macular degeneration because on average they live longer. People who have lighter colored eyes or those that are far-sighted are also more at risk.

The presence of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure or high cholesterol can also increase your risk.

Reducing Risk:

  • Do not smoke.
  • Healthy diet - eat green leafy vegetables.
  • Use sunglasses and a hat outdoors.
  • Keep healthy weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
  • Get routine eye exams.
  • Take a multivitamin and omega 3 supplement.
  • Take specific eye vitamins when directed to do so by your eye doctor.


The treatment for those with the dry form includes a specific vitamin formulation called AREDS 2. This formulation has been scientifically proven to help reduce the risk of progressing to the advanced form of the disease.

AREDS 2 is only proven to help in those with at least the intermediate stage of macular degeneration, so it is important to consult with your doctor when determining if you should be taking it.

At home monitoring with an amsler grid is crucial in those with the dry form to be able to detect early signs that the wet form may be developing.

Treatment for those with the wet form usually includes injections of a medication called Anti-VEGF to reduce the formation and leakage of new blood vessels. Laser surgery can also be used in some cases.

For More Information:

You can learn more about Macular Degeneration, healthy habits for your vision and treatments for the condition at — the website for the American Macular Degeneration Foundation.