Macular Degeneration: Facts, Symptoms, Causes, and Prevention

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Macular Degeneration Facts Symptoms Causes and Prevention First Eye Care McKinney

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss in adults, even though experts do not know exactly what the cause is. While there is no cure for age-related macular degeneration (AMD), there are numerous things you can do to reduce your risk of developing the irreversible condition. First and foremost, it is imperative you visit your local eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam at least once a year. Early detection is absolutely key to catching and stopping AMD before it turns into a much more serious version of itself.

It is estimated that more than 10 million Americans are affected by macular degeneration, more than both cataracts and glaucoma combined. As of right now, macular degeneration is incurable. Macular degeneration occurs when the inside back layer of the eye – the central portion of the retina – begins to deteriorate. This part of the eye – the macula – is responsible for recording the images we see and sending messages from the eye to the brain via the optic nerve. When the macula is damaged or starts to deteriorate, it makes it incredibly difficult to focus the eye, hindering our ability to read, drive, recognize faces and colors, or see objects in detail. While there is no cure for macular degeneration, there are a handful of things you can do to help prevent it or to lessen the symptoms. Before we go any further, we would like to reiterate that the most important thing you should do to prevent macular degeneration is visit First Eye Care McKinney for regular eye exams at least once per year (more if you are at high risk).

What Are the Early Signs of Macular Degeneration?

AMD usually progresses slowly, making it extremely difficult to detect. While in some rare cases individuals may experience sudden vision loss, this is not common. Although macular degeneration cases come on slowly and without much warning, there are a few things you can look for that may indicate macular degeneration is sneaking its way in:

  • Shadowy areas in your central vision
  • Fuzzy or distorted vision
  • An illusion that straight lines are wavy
  • An illusion that objects appear smaller than they really are
  • The appearance of a gray or empty area in the middle of your visual field
  • Color vision is paler than normal

While these signs may help you catch AMD before it progresses, the best way to detect it is through a comprehensive eye exam. Our experienced optometrists are able to detect the early warning signs of macular degeneration by performing a retinal exam and another test that uses an Amsler grid to measure a patient’s central vision. Both of these tests help us determine not only whether someone has AMD or not, but how far the disease has progressed.

Can You Fix Macular Degeneration?

Unfortunately, macular degeneration is an incurable eye disease. That being said, numerous drugs and supplements have been shown to restore vision lost to AMD. One of these drugs – Lucentis – may actually slow or completely prevent vision loss related to macular degeneration. While there is no macular degeneration treatment approved in the United States as of right now, there are drugs and supplements that may help. To learn more about these options, please contact First Eye Care McKinney today.

What is the Best Treatment for Macular Degeneration?

As mentioned, there are no approved treatments for macular degeneration in the United States right now. However, there are options that may help reduce your symptoms. It should also be noted that there are two different types of age-related macular degeneration – dry and wet. Treatment will differ depending on which kind of AMD you have. As of right now, there is no treatment for the dry form of AMD. However, people have had success with taking supplements (which we will go over next) to help with the symptoms of this type of AMD. Wet AMD, on the other hand, can be treated with anti-VEGF drugs. These types of medications can reduce the number of abnormal blood vessels found in the retina. For these drugs to work, wet macular degeneration must be diagnosed in its early stages. Other forms of treatment for wet AMD include laser surgery and procedures aimed at slowing the leaking of these blood vessels.

What is the Best Supplement to Take for Macular Degeneration?

If you are at risk of certain conditions and illnesses – such as macular degeneration – taking additional vitamins to support your system and help your body fight off attackers is critical. Here is a list of the preventive vitamins you can take for macular degeneration:

  • Vitamin C (500 mg)
  • Vitamin E (400 IU)
  • Lutein (10 mg)
  • Zeaxanthin (2 mg)
  • Zinc (80 mg)
  • Copper (2 mg)

As with anything, we highly encourage you to come into our McKinney vision center if you have questions about taking vitamins as a way to decrease your risk of macular degeneration. It is important to keep in mind that these vitamins will not completely diminish your chances of developing AMD. However, they will do a great deal to support your eye health and entire body.

Can You Go Blind from Macular Degeneration?

Yes. In many cases, as macular degeneration progresses the patient will go blind. As mentioned earlier, AMD is the leading cause of vision loss in the world. This is why early detection is so important. While the signs of AMD usually come on quickly and cannot be stopped, there are certain things a comprehensive eye exam can do to catch the disease before it gets to this point.

Does AMD Also Occur in Both Eyes?

Not necessarily, but in most cases macular degeneration will eventually affect both eyes. For many, the disease starts in one eye, then eventually starts to develop in the other eye. If you have macular degeneration in both eyes, there is a good chance you are experiencing serious vision distortion or loss. We encourage you to contact First Eye Care McKinney for more information on the steps you can take moving forward. While there is no cure, there are numerous things you can do to ease your discomfort and help stop the condition for worsening.

What Are the Risk Factors of AMD?

It is true that macular degeneration can happen to anyone, but there are also certain risk factors that increase your chance of developing the serious eye condition. Some of these risk factors include:

  • Smoking
  • High-saturated fat diets
  • Lack of antioxidants, such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and lutein
  • Lack of exercise
  • Gene mutations or variations
  • Heredity
  • Presence of age-related macular degeneration in one eye
  • Eye color (people with light-colored eyes are more likely to develop the dry type of MD)
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Prolonged sun exposure

What Foods Can Help with Macular Degeneration?

Many people do not know this, but your eating habits can actually affect your likelihood to get macular degeneration. When macular degeneration occurs, it means inflammation is present and reduced blood/oxygen flow can damage the macula of the retina. The symptoms we discussed earlier will start to show up when this happens. To both prevent and treat AMD, we recommend our patients adopt an anti-inflammatory, nutrient-rich fats diet. Some of the foods that can help with macular degeneration include:

  • Organic, grass-fed animal fats (butter, lard, and tallow)
  • Pastured eggs
  • Full-fat dairy
  • Wild-caught fish
  • Fats found in pastured meats and organs
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Cod-liver oil
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Collard greens
  • Turnip greens
  • Olive oil
  • Oysters
  • Red meat
  • Poultry
  • Whole grains
  • Legumes
  • Orange juice

What Foods Should Be Avoided with Macular Degeneration?

We’ve all heard that we are supposed to eat carrots to keep our vision clear, but what about the foods you should avoid? Here are five foods that should be avoided if you want to potentially prevent macular degeneration from developing:

  • Sugar
  • Meats high in fat
  • Fried foods
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Refined foods

How Long Does It Take for Macular Degeneration to Progress? 

There are numerous factors that contribute to how long it takes for macular degeneration to progress. For one, the stage of AMD you have is a huge consideration. If you visit your First Eye Care McKinney optometrist on a regular basis for a comprehensive eye exam, your chances of AMD progressing quickly are much lower. However, if you do not go to the eye doctor, it is impossible for us to spot any early warning signs. The American Optometric Association recommends yearly eye exams for individuals 61 and older, as well as those who are at a higher risk of developing AMD because of family history. Other factors to consider include the type of AMD you have (wet or dry), if you are a smoker, consume inflammatory foods, or have a family history of AMD, and if your eyes aren’t responding to any treatments. All of these things will contribute to how long it takes for AMD to progress.

Can You Drive with Macular Degeneration?

If you have recently learned that you have macular degeneration and it is in its early stages, you may still be able to drive. Many people with early AMD only have a few small central areas of vision loss or distortion which may not have any impact on your driving. As the disease worsens and your vision becomes blurry, it may no longer be safe to operate a vehicle. We encourage you to use your discretion and be smart about your choices. If you cannot see clearly or have spots in your vision because of macular degeneration, do not drive.

Can Macular Degeneration Be Caused by Stress?

 As of right now, we do not know enough to say that stress causes macular degeneration. However, there is a trend of patients with vision loss due to AMD experiencing higher rates of stress, anxiety, and other mental health problems. We do not know if stress can make AMD worse, but we do understand many of the negative effects stress can have on the body in general. Because of this, it’s safe to say reducing stress may help with AMD. Stress can increase cortisol levels, which can negatively impact the eyes and brain because of how the sympathetic nervous system responds.

How Do You Prevent Macular Degeneration from Getting Worse?

If your family has a history of AMD, it is important you do everything you can to prevent it. Be extra diligent about taking steps to prevent macular degeneration starting at an early age. A family history of AMD is one of the highest risk factors for the disease, so talk to your family and if AMD is common, start taking your vitamins, wearing sunglasses, and being proactive about your vision health.

As mentioned, there is no single solution to stop or prevent macular degeneration from settling in. However, there are a handful of things you can do to stop the disease from progressing, including:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Eat a nutritious diet that includes leafy green vegetables, orange and yellow fruit, fish, and whole grains
  • Avoid smoking
  • Exercise on a regular basis
  • Make sure your blood pressure is normal
  • Control all other medical conditions
  • Wear both sunglasses and hats when outside
  • Get regular eye exams and consult your doctor if you notice any changes in vision
  • Take a multivitamin
  • Limit your intake of refined carbohydrates

If you have questions about any of the above or would like to learn more about how to prevent macular degeneration, please give us a call and schedule a comprehensive eye exam today. We hope this guide has provided you with all the information you need about macular degeneration, including what some of the risk factors are and what can be done to prevent it. To schedule a comprehensive eye exam at our McKinney location, please contact us today. We cannot say it enough – the key to preventing macular degeneration is having your eyes checked out on a regular basis, especially as you get older and the chances of the disease affecting you increases.

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