Skip to main content
Home »

Author: steve

Preventing Age-related Macular Degeneration

dad riding bike with daughter

February is AMD and Low Vision Awareness Month in the United States, and it’s White Cane Week in Canada. Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of vision loss in adults aged 50 and older. Awareness about the disease, the risk factors and prevention are critical, even for younger generations because taking care of your eyes while you are young will help to reduce the risks later on in life.

Understanding AMD

AMD is a disease that damages the macula, which is the center of the retina responsible for sharp visual acuity in the central field of vision. The breakdown of the macula eventually results in the loss of central vision and can occur in one eye or both eyes simultaneously. While AMD doesn’t result in complete blindness, the quality of vision is severely compromised leading to what we refer to as “low vision”.

The loss of central vision can interfere with the performance of everyday tasks such as driving, reading, writing, cooking, or even recognizing faces of friends and family. The good news is, there are many low vision aides on the market now that can assist in helping you to perform these tasks.

There are two types of AMD, wet and dry.

Dry AMD is the most common form of the disease. It is characterized by blurred central vision or blind spots, as the macula begins to deteriorate. Dry AMD is less severe than the wet form, but can progress to wet AMD rapidly.

Wet AMD is when abnormal blood vessels begin to grow under the retina and leak fluid and blood into the macula, causing distortions in vision. Wet AMD can cause permanent scarring if not treated quickly, so any sudden blur in vision should be assessed immediately, especially if one is aware that they have AMD.

Are You at Risk?

The biggest risk factor for AMD is age. Individuals over 60 are most likely to develop the disease however it can occur earlier. Additional risk factors include:

  • Smoking: According to research smoking can double the risk of AMD.
  • Genetics and Family History: If AMD runs in your family you are at a higher risk. Scientists have also identified a number of particular genes that are associated with the disease.
  • Race: Caucasians are more likely to have AMD than those from Hispanic or African-American descent.
  • Lifestyle: Obesity, high cholesterol or blood pressure, poor nutrition and inactivity all contribute to the likelihood of getting AMD.

Prevention of AMD:

If you have risk factors, here is what you can do to prevent or slow the progression of AMD:

  • Regular eye exams; once a year especially if you are 50 or over.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Know your family history and inform your eye doctor.
  • Proper nutrition and regular exercise: Research indicates that a healthy diet rich in “Eyefoods” with key nutrients for the eyes such as orange peppers, kale and spinach as well as regular exercise may reduce your risks or slow the progression of AMD.
  • Maintain healthy cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
  • Dietary supplements: Studies by the National Eye Institute called AREDs and ARED2 indicated that a high dosage of supplements of zinc, vitamin C, vitamin E and lutein may slow the progression of advanced dry AMD (it is not recommended for those without AMD or early AMD). Speak to a doctor before taking these supplements because there may be associated risks involved.
  • Wear 99% -100% UV-blocking sunglasses.

The first step to eye health is awareness. Help us to spread the word about this debilitating disease and the importance of choosing a healthy lifestyle.

Resolve to Prevent Glaucoma in 2017

Glaucoma 20Eye 20Diagram

This year, make healthy eyes and vision your resolution. Find out if you or a loved one is at risk for glaucoma, and take steps for prevention.

Glaucoma is a leading cause of preventable vision loss and blindness in adults in the United States and Canada and the second leading cause of blindness in the World. Projections show that the number of people with the disease will increase by 58% by 2030. These facts however could change with proper awareness.

When detected in the early stages, glaucoma can often be controlled, preventing severe vision loss and blindness. However, symptoms of noticeable vision loss often only occur once the disease has progressed. This is why glaucoma is called “the sneak thief of sight”. Unfortunately, once vision is lost from the disease, it usually can’t be restored.

Risk Factors

Prevention is possible only with early detection and treatment. Since symptoms are often absent regular eye exams which include a glaucoma screening are essential, particularly for individuals at risk for the disease. While anyone can get glaucoma, the following traits put you at a higher risk:

  • Age over 60
  • Hispanic or Latino descent, Asian descent
  • African Americans over the age of 40 (glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in African Americans, 6-8 times more common than in Caucasians.)
  • Family history of glaucoma
  • Diabetics
  • People with severe nearsightedness
  • Certain medications (e.g. steroids)
  • Significant eye injury (even if it occurred in childhood)

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is actually a group of eye diseases that cause damage to the optic nerve due to an increase in pressure inside the eye or intraocular pressure (IOP). Treatments include medication or surgery that can regulate IOP and slow down the progression of the disease to prevent further vision loss if detected early. The type of treatment depends on the type and the cause of the glaucoma.

What are the Symptoms?

Most times glaucoma does not have symptoms. There is no pain unless there is a certain type of glaucoma called angle closure glaucoma. In this case, the channel of outflow gets crowded then blocked, causing foggy, blurred vision, halos around lights, headache and even nausea. This is a medical emergency and should be assessed immediately as the intraocular pressure can become extremely high and cause permanent damage within hours.

Most forms of glaucoma have an “open angle”, which is not so urgent, but does need compliance with the treatment plan (which is sometimes difficult as some of the glaucoma drops have uncomfortable side effects). Once vision loss develops it typically begins with a loss of peripheral or side vision and then progresses inward.

What Can You Do To Prevent Glaucoma?

Because there are no symptoms, regular eye exams are vital to early detection. If you have any of the above risk factors or you are over 60, make a yearly comprehensive eye exam part of your routine. Make sure that your eye doctor knows your family history and any risk factors that are present.

A comprehensive eye exam can determine your risk of developing glaucoma; if you have been diagnosed with glaucoma and have concerns about your treatment, it is best to speak openly with your doctor. Remember, a simple eye doctor’s appointment on a regular basis could save your vision for a lifetime.

Schedule an Appointment