Age related macular degeneration, or AMD, is the leading cause of blindness in people over the age of 60. You can reduce your risk of developing AMD by taking the following steps!
In addition to having higher rates of heart disease, lung cancer, and emphysema, smokers have a higher rate of both Dry and Wet AMD.
Eat Healthy - Fruits and Vegetables:
Eating 5 or more servings of fruit and vegetables reduces your risk of developing macular degeneration. Lutein, a carotenoid pigment that protects the macula, is found exclusively in fruit and vegetables. Through proper diet, lutein accumulates in the macula and likely blocks the damage caused by sunlight, one possible cause of AMD.
Omega-3 fatty acids:
People who eat at least 2 four-ounce servings of fish per week, a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, reduce their risk of Wet AMD by at least 50%. Flaxseed oil is also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Low dietary fat:
Individuals with a higher percentage of vegetable, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats in their diet have higher rates of Wet AMD. This is in contrast to the relative benefits of these products in protecting against heart disease. Eliminate animal fat from your diet, if possible, since it increases your risk of both obesity and heart disease.
Exercise and lose weight:
Exercise reduces your risk of hypertension and helps you to lose weight. Obesity itself increases the risk of AMD. Hypertension and atherosclerosis (“hardening of the Arteries”) also increase your macular degeneration risk.
Avoid prolonged sunlight exposure:
Individuals who routinely spend significant time (> 5 hours /day) in direct sunlight increase their risk of AMD. Wearing sunglasses and a hat outdoors is also recommended.
Treat your elevated cholesterol and lipids:
Lowering your serum cholesterol and serum LDL reduces the risk of atherosclerosis, a risk factor for AMD. A class of lipid lowering agents called Statins may also reduce the risk of Wet AMD development.What if I already have AMD?
In addition to the above, do the following:
Take antioxidant supplements:
For patients with established AMD, the use of antioxidant supplements and minerals is also recommended, since these have been proven in clinical studies to slow the progression of AMD. The recommended supplements are Vitamin C 500mg, Vitamin E 400IU, beta-carotene 15mg, zinc oxide 80mg, and copper 2 mg. This combination can be purchased in one formulation called Ocuvite Preservision, available without a prescription at pharmacies. Please use as directed. Since beta-carotene supplements have been shown to increase the risk of lung cancer in active or recent past smokers, these individuals should not use them.
Monitor your central vision with an Amsler grid:
The Amsler grid is designed for you to detect a change in your macular degeneration. The sudden development of wavy lines or a dark spot on the Amsler grid indicates that Wet macular degeneration has likely developed. Your ophthalmologist should evaluate you promptly if these symptoms develop, since the current treatments for Wet AMD work best if detected quickly.
Obtain a comprehensive eye exam once a year:
It is important to have your eyes examined yearly by a qualified eye professional. Pupil dilation is mandatory at these visits to detect any change in the status of your macular degeneration.
Useful websites for macular degeneration:
Michael E. Rauser, MD
Residency Program Director, Vice Chair for Clinical Affairs
Loma Linda University - Department of Ophthalmology
11370 Anderson Street, Suite # 1800
Loma Linda, CA 92354