Q: My doctor told me I have what may be the early stages of Macular Degeneration. What can I do?
A: Macular Degeneration, often called Age-Related Macular Degeneration or ARMD, is a growing cause of vision loss. It is estimated that 1.75 million people in the U.S. have lost vision related to ARMD, and that figure is expected to grow to nearly 3 million by 2020. There are two categories of ARMD – the dry form and the wet form; the dry form precedes the wet form, which occurs in about 10% of ARMD patients. Researchers are still working on determining the exact mechanism for the disease, but there have been some important discoveries made thus far which can help us predict who is most at risk and allow us to reduce some risk factors. The first risk factor, as the name suggests, is age. The second most significant risk factor is smoking. Consistent exposure (first or second hand) to tobacco smoke doubles a person’s risk of developing ARMD. A third risk factor is family history; we have discovered two gene variations present in most ARMD patients. Other risk factors include UV exposure, obesity/inactivity, high blood pressure, and light eye color.
As you can see, some risk factors are unavoidable, while others are lifestyle choices. There have also been two important nutritional studies that indicate certain dietary supplements may reduce the risk of severe vision loss from ARMD – the AREDS and TOZAL Studies. These studies have shown that certain nutrients – Vitamins A, C, & E, Zinc, Lutein, Zeaxanthin, and Omega 3 Fatty Acids – may lower a person’s risk or slow the progression of ARMD.
Based on the above information, here is a list of things that can be done to lower your risk of losing vision from ARMD:
1. Don’t Smoke
2. Lose weight, eat a low-fat diet, and exercise
3. Control your blood pressure
4. Protect your eyes from UV light
5. Take a dietary supplement based on the AREDS formula as well as an Omega 3 (fish oil or flax seed oil)
6. Have regular eye exams – particularly if you are over 60 and/or have a family history of ARMD.
Please contact Dr. Ayres at Riverbend Eyecare if you have any questions 317-9747.