We find that many of our Atlanta Vision Cataract and Laser Center patients don’t stop to think about preventing eye disease. If you’re in that group, then this is a good time to take a minute to consider the importance of preventing macular degeneration.
Why? Because you have a good chance of preventing the most common type of macular degeneration. But if you don’t take steps to protect your eyes now, we can’t treat it once it develops.
What you should know about macular degeneration
Macular degeneration causes deterioration in the center of your retina, in an area called the macula. The macula is responsible for central vision, so it allows you to read, recognize faces, and see the fine details in objects. Central vision is also essential for driving.
There are two types of macular degeneration:
Dry macular degeneration
Dry macular degeneration accounts for 85-90% of all cases. This type develops as the macula thins out and small deposits of fat and protein build up under the macula. These deposits, called drusen, are small at first, but they gradually enlarge, damaging the macula and affecting your central vision.
Wet macular degeneration
Wet macular degeneration occurs when unusual blood vessels develop behind your retina. These aren’t normal blood vessels. They’re fragile and leak blood, causing swelling that lifts up the macula and affects your vision. Though this type is less common, it causes vision loss at a faster rate than dry macular degeneration.
You don’t have any symptoms at first because macular degeneration develops slowly, but when symptoms appear, you experience:
- Blurry vision
- Distorted vision
- Diminished color vision
- Difficulty seeing in low light
- Loss of central vision
As your vision loss progresses, you notice a dark spot in the center of your vision that blots out faces and words.
How to prevent macular degeneration
We can’t begin to emphasize the importance of preventing macular degeneration. Once the dry type develops, we don’t have any way to treat it. While we can offer several treatments for wet macular degeneration, they only slow down or stop future vision loss, but they don’t cure the disease. And unfortunately, your vision loss may progress despite treatment.
The best way to prevent macular degeneration is by reducing the risk factors you can control. Of course, you can’t do anything about the top risk factor, which is your age. Some people have a genetic predisposition to developing macular degeneration, yet even with that, you can still lower your risk by taking the following steps:
If you smoke, the most important step you can take to prevent macular degeneration is to stop smoking. Your overall risk of macular degeneration depends on variables such as how long you were a smoker, if you’re a current smoker, and the number of cigarettes you smoke daily. But smokers are 2-4 times more likely to develop macular degeneration compared with nonsmokers.
Revisit your diet
We can’t treat dry macular degeneration, but your diet can prevent it or slow down its progression after it develops. Studies show that you need plenty of:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
Lutein and zeaxanthin are antioxidants that protect the macula and help prevent macular degeneration. You get these nutrients from foods such as egg yolks, yellow corn, orange and yellow peppers, spinach, broccoli, zucchini, and Brussels sprouts.
Vitamins C and E are found in colorful fruits and vegetables, as well as dark green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale. For zinc and copper, the best sources are nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains.
Supplements are available that are specially formulated for your eyes, but there may be risks associated with taking them for a long time. Talk with us before buying supplements so we can determine if you need them and if so, the optimal dose for your eye health.
Control your blood pressure
High blood pressure or hypertension is closely linked with macular degeneration. Even if you don’t develop macular degeneration, hypertension can damage nerves and blood vessels in your retina, causing retinopathy or other eye problems.
The experts believe that long-term exposure to ultraviolet light may boost your risk for macular degeneration. At the very least, sunlight accelerates your chances of developing cataracts. Protect your vision by wearing sunglasses that provide 100% UV protection.
Schedule routine eye examinations
During comprehensive eye exams, we can detect the earliest signs of macular degeneration long before you develop symptoms, giving you a better chance of slowing down progressive damage.
If you have any questions about your risk for macular degeneration, or you’d like to schedule an eye examination, call Atlanta Vision Cataract and Laser Center or schedule an appointment online today.