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CAN YOU PREVENT OR REDUCE THE RISK OF AGE-RELATED MACULAR DEGENERATION?

Did you know that age-related macular degeneration (AMD) affects more than 2 million Canadians over the age of 50? AMD can result in a diagnosis of low vision, which is considered legal blindness.


AMD is characterized by the deterioration of the macula, the central area of the retina. When you have this disease, your central vision is reduced. The primary risk factor for this condition is, simply, age.

 

So many daily activities can be affected by AMD. Reading, driving, and watching TV are just a few things that can be difficult or impossible to do with advancing AMD.


You can't, of course, keep yourself from aging, but there are things you can do to reduce the risk of getting AMD as you age. Keep reading to find out more about AMD and what you can do to prevent it.



SYMPTOMS, TYPES, AND TREATMENT OF AGE-RELATED MACULAR DEGENERATION

So, what is macular degeneration?


There are two types of AMD. Dry macular degeneration is the more common type. With dry AMD, the macula becomes thinner, and the condition progresses through three stages—early, intermediate, and late. Most people with dry macular degeneration continue to see normally. However, it can progress to wet macular degeneration and this will affect the central vision.


With wet macular degeneration, abnormal blood vessels grow at the back of the eye, damaging the macula. Dry AMD can turn into wet AMD at any stage, but wet AMD is always considered late stage.


There are treatments for wet AMD that can reduce or destroy any abnormal blood vessels forming in your eye. Anti-VEGF injections go straight into your eye. Laser therapies may be laser treatments alone or laser treatments combined with medication.


If you have any of the following, you will want to visit an eye doctor, as they are symptoms of macular degeneration:



  • Blurry vision

  • Difficulty recognizing faces

  • Straight lines appear wavy

  • A blind spot or a dark, empty area in your central vision

  • There are things you can do right now to lower your risk of contracting AMD.



STOP SMOKING

Smokers are two to five times more likely to develop AMD than non-smokers. You are exposed to free radicals when you smoke, and these can cause cellular damage and keep nutrients from your eyes, in particular your retina.


The good news is that once you quit, each year you are without cigarettes progressively lowers your AMD risk factor. If you are a smoker and you're ready to quit, speak with your doctor about your options.



LOWER YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE

High blood pressure, also called hypertension, can have a debilitating effect on your eyes. Blood can be restricted from travelling to the vascular layer of the eye.


Medication can lower blood pressure. Maintaining a healthy weight and getting plenty of exercise can also help. This, in turn, may reduce the risk of AMD.



USE UV AND BLUE LIGHT PROTECTION

It's important to protect your eyes. When you're outside, wear sunglasses to guard against harmful UV rays. When you're using digital devices or a computer, consider blue-light-blocking glasses or screen covers.



FOLLOW A HEALTHY DIET

A healthy diet doesn't just help you lower the risk of developing AMD, it's just plain good for you. A diet rich in antioxidants can help slow any damage done by free radicals harming your eye through oxidation.


Dark, leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, broccoli, and collard greens have antioxidants. Orange fruits and vegetables like mangos, oranges, cantaloupe, and peppers are also high in antioxidants.


Watching the carbs you take in will help the battle against AMD, too. Avoid foods with simple carbs and focus on those with complex cards. Whole grains and fibre-rich fruits and vegetables are a great place to start.



TAKE CARE OF YOUR EYES

As you get older, you should visit your eye doctor regularly. There are tests which can determine whether or not you have any early signs of age-related macular degeneration. If you do, a treatment plan can be put in place to slow down the effects. Treatments include daily monitoring with an Amsler grid, vitamins and supplements specific for macular degeneration, regular eye examinations and imaging.


At Bellemore Optometry and Eyes on Tecumseh, your eye health is our top priority. Contact us today to schedule your next eye exam.

 

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