The macula is the spot on your retina where your central vision forms. When the macula is healthy, images are sharp and bright. Like many other body systems, however, your eyesight can be affected by the passing of time. Age-related macular degeneration, abbreviated AMD, describes the condition where the macula’s ability to form images becomes compromised.
While age is the most common risk factor for developing AMD, you’re also more at risk if you’re a smoker, or if you have a family history that includes the disease. Those of the Caucasian race are also more likely to develop AMD.
The stages of AMD
You can develop AMD in one eye, both eyes, or with each eye in different stages of development. The stages of AMD are typically defined by the number and size of spots called drusen. These are deposits beneath the retina that most people develop as they get older, but medium and large-sized drusen can indicate the presence of AMD.
- Early AMD usually features no vision loss, but medium-sized drusen are present
- Intermediate AMD may or may not have noticeable vision loss, diagnosed by the presence of large drusen and/or pigment changes in the retina
- Late AMD has noticeable vision loss, either from dry AMD, a gradual decline of the light-sensitive cells, or wet AMD, occurring due to the presence of abnormal blood vessels under the retina
There’s no cure for AMD, but there are things you can do to reduce your risk of developing the disease. It’s particularly important to monitor and care for your eyesight if there’s a genetic history of AMD in your family. As well as regular eye exams, here are some of the things you can do to adjust to an eye-friendly lifestyle.
If you smoke—quit. Nicotine has a negative effect on blood circulation, and you are more likely to develop AMD if you smoke.
Have a vitamin
While vitamin supplements aren’t proven to prevent AMD in healthy eyes, there’s little downside and improvements to overall health may slow age-related deterioration in general.
Add lots of leafy green vegetables to your diet, including raw spinach, kale, collard greens, and swiss chard. Each of these is rich in carotenoids, associated with a decreased risk of wet AMD. Eat fish regularly, too, or take fish oil supplements, since the equivalent of two servings per week may reduce AMD by 45%. Also, fruit and nuts can be a daily part of your lifestyle to prevent or slow the development of AMD.
Restrict the amounts of refined carbohydrates you eat in favor of low glycemic index carbs to help reduce periods of high blood sugar, which can damage blood vessels.
If you’re carrying excess body weight, start a diet and activity program to achieve a healthy weight. Similarly, keep your blood pressure under control, since it may be connected with the development of AMD. Also, maintain healthy levels of blood cholesterol, low in LDL and high in HDL, to promote the health of blood vessels and heart.
Shades of protection
Wear sunglasses when you’re outdoors and ensure that they block both ultraviolet light as well as the blue light spectrum, which may contribute to eye damage.
If you haven’t had a recent eye exam, contact KLM Eye MDs today, either by phone or through our website online. Only an ophthalmologic exam can catch AMD in its early stages, giving you the best chance to avoid permanent vision impairment in later years.