As we age, lots of things start changing and going downhill in our bodies that we never expected to happen. The eyes are no exception to this, and age-related macular degeneration affects over 10 million Americans each year. This eye disease doesn’t yet have a cure, and it affects more people than cataracts and glaucoma combined. Since macular degeneration is a leading cause of vision loss, we’re taking a look at what it actually is and how you can help prevent it from developing in your own eyes.
What Is Macular Degeneration?
This eye disease is the result of a deterioration of the central part of the retina, known as the macula. This part of the eye helps us do everything from read to drive cars, recognize faces, and see objects in detail. This is because the macula records images and sends them from the eyes to the brain through the optic nerve.
Causes of Macular Degeneration
Macular degeneration is one of those little understood diseases for which more research is desperately needed. Physicians aren’t exactly sure what makes the macula cells start to deteriorate, but they do believe that both genetics and environment play important roles in its development. Meanwhile, a form of the disorder called Stargardt disease is found in younger people and is the result of a recessive gene.
This eye disease is often described as dry/atrophic or wet/exudative, with the dry version being the most common. In the early stages, most people don’t notice any vision loss with age-related macular degeneration. With regularly scheduled vision exams, an optometrist can diagnose the condition by seeing medium-sized and yellow-colored deposits below the retina. The condition typically gets progressively worse from this point with additional pigment changes in the retina and more noticeable vision loss.
Risk Factors for Macular Degeneration
Age is the most significant risk factor for macular degeneration, and unfortunately, age isn’t something you can prevent. This is an eye disease that is most common among both men and women over the age of 55. Research shows that Caucasians are most likely to develop macular degeneration when compared to other race and ethnicity groups and that people who have a family history of the disease are at a greater risk. Also, smoking cigarettes significantly increases your risk of developing this disorder.
Natural Ways to Help Prevent Macular Degeneration
Although there is no cure for age-related macular degeneration, there are some things that you can do now to protect your eyes and decrease your risk of developing it later in life. If you smoke, stop immediately. Eating fish and taking fish oil supplements also support healthy eyes and vision. Other good foods to eat for prevention include leafy green vegetables, like spinach and kale, as well as fruits and nuts. High-antioxidant foods, such as carrots and berries, are also recommended for overall eye health and longevity.
Make sure to limit your intake of high-glycemic foods and refined carbohydrates to reduce your risk of eye disease, and ask your doctor whether natural fruit and vegetable supplements can help make up for gaps in your regular diet. It’s also a smart idea to keep up with yearly eye exams in order to detect signs of macular degeneration early and to have your blood pressure and cholesterol checked regularly because high levels of each of these can put your eyes at risk. Finally, when you go outside, wear a pair of quality sunglasses to protect your eyes from UV rays.
This world is far too beautiful not to see it well into your golden years. Do what you can now to continue seeing its beauty for many moments and memories yet to come.