Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a disease that can lead to vision loss. It affects over 10 million adults in the U.S. alone, and this number is expected to double by the year 2050. While there is no cure for macular degeneration, certain steps can be taken to boost eye health and decrease the risk of acquiring this disease.
What is AMD?
AMD is a disease that damages a part of the retina called the macula. A person with AMD will have a difficult time seeing what is directly in front of them, as this impairs central vision, not peripheral vision.
There are two types of AMD: dry macular degeneration and wet macular degeneration.
Dry macular degeneration: Dry macular degeneration or dry AMD affects 85 to 90 percent of all AMD patients. In dry AMD, central vision loss occurs because of small yellow deposits called drusen that form under the macula.
Wet macular degeneration: Wet macular degeneration or wet AMD is also known as neovascular AMD. This type of AMD causes unstable blood vessels to develop under the macula, which can leak blood and other fluids. As a blood vessel ruptures, it causes scarring and damages the photoreceptors, which result in severe vision loss.
The exact cause of AMD is not clear. However, several factors can increase the likelihood of acquiring this disease, including obesity, hypertension, tobacco use, and family history.
In a report, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) also identified these risk factors:
Age: There is an increased risk of acquiring AMD after the age of 60.
Ethnicity: Caucasians are far more likely to get AMD compared to other ethnicities.
Family history: At least 20 percent of people with AMD have a close relative with the same disease.
Tobacco use: People who smoke cigarettes have an increased risk of developing AMD.
Obesity: Conditions linked to obesity such as hypertension and high blood pressure increase the risk of AMD.
Wear sunglasses: Wearing sunglasses protects the eyes against the sun’s harmful UV rays. This can delay the formation of cataracts and prevent retinal damage. This can also protect the skin around the eyes from wrinkles and even skin cancer.
Wear a wide-brimmed hat: A wide-brimmed hat can shield the eyes against the sunlight, providing added protection from UV rays.
Don't smoke: Smoking has been linked to many diseases, including AMD. Studies show that smoking can increase the risk of developing AMD and cataracts.
Eat a healthy diet: A diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants supports healthy eye function. Research has found that people who have adequate levels of vitamins C and E, zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin, and omega-3 fatty acids have a reduced risk of acquiring AMD.
Address it early on: AMD can be inherited. If you have a family member who has AMD, then you could be at risk of developing this disease. Fortunately, this condition can be addressed with early diagnosis.
Be aware of eye fatigue: Staring at a monitor for long periods of time can cause eye strain which increases the risk of AMD. Reduce your risk by looking away from the monitor every 20 minutes. You can also look at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
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