Our eyes are cameras to the world, and for many of us the picture may be falling out of focus.
Macular degeneration—simply described as blurred vision—is a leading cause of vision loss among people 50 and older, affecting more than 10 million Americans.
1 If you think you may be among them, be glad to know that macular degeneration, or AMD, can be easily detected. There are even ways to reduce or slow its onset.
Comparing our eyes to a camera, macular degeneration is the breakdown of the film that records what we see. It represents the deterioration of the central portion of the retina, called the macula, which focuses our vision and enables us to read, drive and generally see fine details.
The causes of AMD can be complex, involving heredity, the environment and lifestyle habits. Identifying its effects, however, can be relatively straightforward.
Detecting AMD and its effects
Those who have macular degeneration generally have blurred central vision. The eye condition is often called age-related macular degeneration because it tends to occur as we age.
85 to 90 percent of basic AMD cases are called “dry” or atrophic, indicating the thinning and drying out of the macula. The remaining 10 to 15 percent are called “wet,” and occur when abnormal blood vessels grow under the retina and macula and may bleed or leak, causing the macula to shift.
The effects of AMD include:
• A waviness of lines or doorways appearing crooked
• Objects appear smaller or farther away
• More light needed to see up close
• Decreased color brightness
• Difficulty recognizing faces
• Vision haziness
• Blurry or blind spots in central vision
Undiagnosed, the long-term effects of AMD include continued vision loss or low vision that could make everyday tasks such as writing, reading or shopping difficult, even with prescription lenses.
Reducing the risks of AMD
While age-related macular degeneration is hard to avoid, several conditions contribute to the risk of it occurring. By understanding these characteristics, you can reduce your risk of developing AMD or slow its progression:
Too much sun: UV exposure can cause eye diseases such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
4 It is essential to wear good eyeglasses and sunglasses purchased from a reputable source, with lenses and frames designed to suit your lifestyle and activities.
Inactivity: AMD is shown to occur less often in people who exercise.
Smoking: Research shows that smoking can double the risk of AMD.
Antacids: The regular use of antacids has been linked with developing AMD.
Poor diet: Healthy foods that are high in antioxidants, such as leafy greens, blueberries and fish, as well as vitamins and zinc may help prevent the wet and dry forms of AMD and slow their progression.
Also, women, Caucasians and people with light-colored eyes are more likely to develop AMD, as are those with a family history of it.
If you notice any changes in your central vision or in your ability to see colors, make an immediate appointment for an eye exam. Because AMD exhibits few symptoms in its early stages, annual eye exams are the best way to improve the chances of getting an early diagnosis, and keeping your world in focus.