It is a well-known fact that age has an impact on the eye health and vision of a person. Images of older folks with thick glasses are a cliché. However, the common causes of this phenomenon and what you can do to help prevent it from growing severe are far less talked about.
Age-related eye issues, including age-related macular degeneration, are common in people over the age of 55. Though macular degeneration has no known cure, there are still some things that you can do to keep your risk of developing severe degeneration minimized.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Unfortunately, eyesight can deteriorate with age. Age-related macular degeneration is a disease that affects one’s central vision. Central vision allows one to focus enough to partake in common activities like reading or recognizing someone’s face. Though macular degeneration rarely causes enough damage to render a person completely blind, it does cause significant impairment to one’s ability to function in day-to-day activities.
Macular degeneration results from a breakdown in part of the retina called the macula, which is responsible for regulating central vision. Several risk factors can make you more likely to develop macular degeneration in your old age, but one of them is a diet high in fats. There are two kinds of age-related macular degeneration: wet and dry.
Dry Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Although dry macular degeneration has no known cure, it is less likely to cause severe vision loss. Not to be mistaken for dry eyes, a protein called drusen growing around a thinning macula causes this condition, but the progression of the loss of vision, in this case, is slower.
Wet Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Wet macular degeneration is far less common and more serious than its dry counterpart. It happens when abnormal cells around the macula tend to leak blood and other fluid, scarring the macula. The wet variety tends to progress more quickly than the dry.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
For years, it appeared as though a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids could have a reductive effect on the development and progression of macular degeneration. However, studies show no correlation between the omega-3 supplements given to the patients in the trial and their age-related macular degeneration.
While it was not proven to have many beneficial effects on eye health, it was also proven not to make things worse. The development of more severe symptoms was the same in both the group given the omega-3 vitamin supplement and in the placebo group.
What your eye doctor asks you to take will vary depending on what form of macular degeneration you have. For those with the dry variety, vitamin C, vitamin E, lutein, zeaxanthin, zinc, and copper are all common to help slow the spread of the drusen. Your optometrist may also recommend dark vegetables and fish due to their high nutrient contents.
Wet macular degeneration, however, cannot be treated by changing your intake of vitamins alone and may require surgery to help correct it. Even then, you should expect your eyes to remain affected.
These supplements are only proven effective for patients with the dry variety of age-related macular degeneration. They have been shown to help prevent low to moderate macular degeneration from progressing to the severe form of the disease.
Risks and Potential Side Effects
Supplemental vitamins risk changing the way your body digests food due to the high concentrated amounts of vitamins and minerals already in your diet. They may also change the way your body reacts to other medicines.
Another important distinction is that two kinds of vitamins are available. The older version, AREDS, contains beta-carotene, which can promote lung cancer in patients who smoke or used to smoke. Therefore, if you were ever a smoker, you must choose the newer version, AREDS-2, which does not contain beta-carotene. AREDS can be obtained easily over the counter at most drug stores or on the internet.
Symptoms of Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Dry macular degeneration may not have any symptoms in the early phases and very few that are difficult to detect in the intermediate phase. However, late-phase macular degeneration causes straight lines to appear wavy, at which point the disease may have progressed beyond the ability to slow it.
For this reason, if you are at risk for developing age-related macular degeneration, you must see your optometrist regularly to check whether it may be developing so it can be kept under control.
Risk Factors for Age-Related Macular Degeneration
There are several factors to bear in mind as to whether or not age-related macular degeneration is something you need to be aware of, in addition to knowing how to avoid common emergencies. First, if you are over the age of 55, your risk for macular degeneration increases dramatically. You should see your eye doctor regularly after that point, just as a precaution, to maintain your eye health.
Your risk increases further if you are a smoker, are Caucasian, or have a family history of age-related macular degeneration. Additionally, high blood pressure and high cholesterol can be risk factors.
It is as simple as making healthier choices to lower your risk. If you are a smoker, quit now. If you are not, don’t start. Protect your eyes from the sun. As with almost everything else, regular physical activity keeps your body healthier, which extends to your eye health. Do your best to maintain a healthy blood pressure and eat a healthy diet filled with plenty of good foods, including vegetables and fish.
The idea of age-related macular degeneration can be scary. Everyone uses their vision for many different things every day. However, with proper vigilance, a good diet, and the right supplements, you can keep the progression of your macular degeneration in check.
The talented eye doctors at Art of Optiks can help you catch any eye diseases early, so your eyes can see clearly for many years to come. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.