Is your central field of vision becoming blurry, but your peripheral vision remains normal? If you’re older, the culprit is possibly age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Dr. Raymond Stein, the Medical Director of the Bochner Eye Institute and Professor of Ophthalmology and Vision Sciences at the University of Toronto, discusses the top age-related macular degeneration risk factors.
Understanding Age-Related Macular Degeneration
AMD, an incurable eye disease, is the leading cause of vision loss in older adults. With AMD, the macula, which is part of the retina, is damaged. As its name implies, age is a major risk factor for macular degeneration. The condition most often occurs in those aged 55 and up. However, other risk factors also come into play. Some of these risk factors are avoidable, and some are not. Here are three other risk factors relating to AMD.
1. Family History and Race
There is a genetic component to AMD. Caucasians are far more vulnerable to the disease than those of other races. If close relatives were diagnosed with AMD, you are far more likely to develop the disease.
Smoking is responsible for a host of health problems, and AMD is no exception. The same holds true for people who do not smoke but live with smokers or are otherwise regularly exposed to cigarette smoke. Cigarette smoke contains numerous toxic compounds. These compounds may cause inflammation and vascular changes leading to AMD.
If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, try to quit. Speak with your doctor about programs to help you stop smoking.
Obesity contributes to AMD. That is especially true of overweight individuals whose diet is heavy on fried foods, red and processed meat and high-fat dairy products. The risk of excess weight and a poor diet triples the likelihood of developing late-stage AMD. Obesity also contributes to high blood pressure, which is another AMD risk factor.
Metabolic syndrome is frequently seen in conjunction with obesity. Symptoms include high levels of cholesterol, triglycerides and glucose. All of these factors increase the risk of AMD.
Lower your AMD risk by consuming a healthy diet that includes leafy green vegetables and fish, and by engaging in regular exercise. Your doctor can help you with a diet and exercise program tailored to your needs.
If you have any of the risk factors for AMD, regular eye exams are critical. Schedule a consultation with Dr. Stein at Bochner Eye Institute. Since early AMD has no symptoms, it is important not to wait until blurry vision or other symptoms appear. Special dietary supplements can slow AMD’s progress.