by Laura Young
Age Related Macular Degeneration is one of the leading causes of severe vision loss in adults ages 55 and older. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, it is estimated that 1.8 million adults in the US are affected by ARMD and that as many as 7.3 million adults are at risk for substantial risk for vision loss from ARMD. The psychological effects of vision loss can be devastating and life altering to both the patients affected and their caretakers. If AMRD is not detected early, the effects are often irreversible.
The macula is a specialize part of the retina. The retina is the back inside layer of the eye that is similar to “film” in a camera. The macula is the special area of the retina designed for central vision. This portion of the retina allows us to see the details of faces, it used for reading, and anything we look “directly at”. It is also responsible for the majority of color vision. Macular degeneration occurs when there is damage to the layers within the macular region. It comes in two forms, dry (atrophic) and wet (exudative). The most common form is the dry version and it typically occurs very slowly overtime, but there is no treatment available for this version. The wet version is much less common, but it often advances more quickly and with more significant vision loss; however, treatments are available, but often do no provide complete vision recovery.
Risk factors for the development of macular degeneration include; age (people age 55 and older), smoking, sun exposure without proper sun protection, family history, and Caucasians are at greatest risk. The symptoms for ARMD include gradual loss of ability to see things clearly, a loss of clear color vision, distortion of objects, where straight lines look wavy or crooked, or a dark spot or “empty” area in the central vision. The only way to determine if a person has macular degeneration is through a comprehensive eye examination.
There are a variety of nutrients that you can add to your diet that can help save your vision. Researchers have found that 10mg of lutein and 2mg zeaxanthin are nutrients found in green leafy vegetables and eggs can reduce the risk of chronic eye diseases, including ARMD. It has also been found that 500mg of vitamin C, 400mg of vitamin E, and 40 to 80mg of zinc taken with anti-oxidants such as Vitamin A and beta carotene also help to slow the progression of macular degeneration. These nutrients can be found in certain foods and or in food supplements. It is important to talk with your doctor and eye doctor before taking any vitamins or supplements.
Comprehensive eye examinations on a yearly basis are the best way to monitor for eye diseases including age related macular degeneration. If an eye problem is found early there are often steps that can be taken to help slow down its progression.
Dr. Laura Young is an optometrist at Premier Family Eye Care in Indian Trail. www.premierfamilyeye.com.