I receive many emails from my readers concerning eye problems during menopause, particularly dry or tearful eyes. Apart from being short-sighted, I’ve been lucky with my eyes so far. However, I’ve recently been educated on a common condition called Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). Ever heard of it? The statistics are quite staggering, especially for women, who are more at risk. It is also the leading cause of vision loss in people over 55 years old.
Here’s What You Need To Know About Age Related Macular Degeneration
Due to the aging Baby Boomer population, it is estimated that the number of people with AMD is expected to double by 2020. There are currently over 2 million Americans suffering from this condition and 7 million more are at risk.
What Is Age Related Macular Degeneration?
AMD is a medical condition which may result in blurred vision in the center of the visual field, caused by damage to the macula of the retina. The macula is a small spot surrounding the fovea near the center of the retina of the eye, and the part of the eye needed for sharp, central vision, which lets us see objects that are straight ahead. While not a cause of AMD, the presence of fatty deposits under the retina, called drusen, can increase your risk of developing the disease.
Why Macular Pigment Optical Density (MPOD) Is So Important
1) Lower macular pigment is a key risk factor for AMD.
2) Macular pigment absorbs harmful blue light, protecting the eyes’ photoreceptors from damage.
3) Macular pigment improves visual performance, including:
- Visual activity – ability to see clear, fine details.
- Light sensitivity – visual discomfort in sunlight and bright lights.
- Contrast sensitivity – ability to discern objects from their background i.e. seeing a white golf ball against a blue sky.
- Glare recovery – recovery from temporary “blindness” caused by high intensity lighting.
What Are The Symptoms Of AMD?
In its early stages there are often no symptoms, however, as AMD progresses, a blurred area near the center of vision is a common symptom. Over time, the blurred area may grow larger or you may develop blank spots in your central vision. Vision becomes distorted (i.e. a single straight line looks wavy) and blurred and we lose the ability to see clearly in dim lighting. AMD can interfere with simple everyday activities such as the ability to see faces, reading, driving, computer work, cooking and so on.
The Two Forms Of AMD
Dry: There is a gradual breakdown of the light-sensitive cells in the macula that convey tissue information to the brain, and of the supporting tissue beneath the macula. These changes cause vision loss.
Wet: Abnormal blood vessels grow underneath the retina. These vessels leak fluid and blood, which may lead to swelling and damage of the macula. The damage may be rapid and severe, unlike the more gradual course of dry AMD. It is possible to have both dry and wet AMD in the same eye and either condition can appear first.
The National Eye Institute (NEI) reports:
“Of those who have early AMD in one eye and no signs of AMD in the other eye, about 5% will develop advanced AMD after 10 years.”
“Of those who have early AMD in both eyes, about 14% will develop late AMD in at least one eye after 10 years.”
Risk Factors For Developing Age Related Macular Degneration
While there is currently no cure for AMD, and its effects are irreversible, the following factors can increase your risk of developing this condition: Age, family history, light skin and eyes, and being female. A history of smoking, poor diet, low macular pigment, and a high body mass index, can be additional risk factors.
What Can You Do?
Your EyeCare Professional can perform a test called a Macular Pigment Optical Density (MPOD) to determine if you have AMD, and genetic tests can tell you if your family history disposes you to the disease.
If you notice distortion or blurred vision, even if it’s not affecting your daily life, consult an Eye Care Professional.
If you are at risk of macular degeneration because of age, family history, lifestyle, or a combination of these factors, you should get checked for AMD regardless of whether you are experiencing changes in vision.
AMD has few symptoms in the early stages, so it is important to have your eyes checked regularly.
Maintain a healthy body weight and if you smoke, quit.
Try A Supplement
Significant increases in macular pigment can be achieved through incorporating important ingredients, called zeaxanthin and lutein, into your diet. These ingredients also can be found in leafy greens, oily fish and fruits, but you can get a significantly higher dose through natural lutein and zeaxanthin supplements.
“The dietary carotenoids zeaxanthin and lutein protect the most important retinal real estate of the eye – the macula – which allows us to see detail. It is therefore critical to maintain the quality and health of this area of retinal tissue in a modern society that depends upon using computer screens and driving automobiles, safely,” said Dr. Stuart Richer.
This post is sponsored by EyePromise, as part of February’s #AMDawareness Month. All opinions are my own!
Understanding Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) Retrieved from http://www.allaboutvision.com/conditions/amd.htm
Facts About Age Related Macular Degeneration. Retrieved from https://nei.nih.gov/health/maculardegen/armd_facts
Klein. R., et al (Mar 2006) Prevalence of age-related macular degeneration in 4 racial/ethnic groups in the multi-ethnic study of atherosclerosis. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16513455
What Are Drusen? Retrieved from http://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/what-are-drusen