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Macular Degeneration: Protecting Your Vision as You Age

Macular DegenerationYou're retired, and you've got time to pursue your passions. As you set up your canvas, you realize something isn't quite right. The colors are duller than you remember, and the details aren't as sharp. What's going on?

In the United States, approximately 20 million individuals are affected by macular degeneration, with almost 1.5 million having the advanced stage of the disease. Fortunately, there are ways to slow down macular degeneration and lower your risk of vision loss.

If you're 50 or older, scheduling regular eye exams with your optometrist is essential. Early detection and treatment of eye diseases and conditions can help increase the chances of preserving your vision and preventing further damage. Don't delay — book an appointment at Steven Schoenbart, OD Low Vision today.

Understanding Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration is an eye disease affecting the macula, the part of the retina responsible for central vision and seeing fine details. It's often referred to as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), as it mainly affects people over the age of 50. However, genetic diseases, like Stargard's and Best disease, can cause macular degeneration in younger individuals.

The disease can be either the dry or wet form. Dry macular degeneration is the more common, accounting for about 85-90% of cases. This is caused by the accumulation of yellow lipid deposits, called drusen, underneath the macula. These cause the macula to thin and deteriorate, usually over months or even years, eventually dimming and distorting whatever you are looking at.

The growth of abnormal blood vessels underneath the macula causes wet macular degeneration. These abnormal blood vessels are fragile and leak fluid and blood, causing the macula to become distorted and lifted off the retina, resulting in a blind spot in your central vision. Wet macular degeneration can progress rapidly, often resulting in sudden visual loss,  but is less common, accounting for only 10-15% of cases.

Macular Degeneration Symptoms

Macular degeneration causes a range of visual symptoms that vary depending on the type and stage of the disease. Some common symptoms of macular degeneration include:

  • Blurry or distorted vision
  • Difficulty seeing fine details or reading small print
  • A blind spot or dark spot in your central vision
  • Colors appear less vibrant
  • Difficulty seeing in low light

Macular degeneration may not cause noticeable symptoms in its early stages, so regular eye exams are essential, especially for those over 50. A dilated eye exam can detect the disease before symptoms are apparent, allowing for more effective treatment.

How To Slow Down Macular Degeneration

While there is no surefire way to prevent or cure macular degeneration, there are proactive steps you can take to slow down its progression and preserve your vision.

Lifestyle Changes

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can go a long way in slowing down the progression of macular degeneration.

  1. Healthy diet: A diet rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids can improve eye health. Antioxidants help protect the eyes from harmful free radicals, while omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation. Foods to include are leafy greens, fish, nuts, and berries, among others.
  2. Regular exercise: Besides benefiting your overall health, exercise can also help protect your vision by enhancing blood flow to the eyes. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily.
  3. Wear sunglasses with UV protection: UV light can damage the eyes and increase the risk of developing eye diseases. Wear sunglasses that block 100% of UV rays when outside.
  4. Quit smoking and limit alcohol consumption: Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption have been linked to an increased risk of macular degeneration.

Supplements and Vitamins

Studies suggest that certain nutritional supplements can help lower the risk of AMD advancing to late-stage or wet AMD, these are often based on the AREDS formulation. The combined intake of vitamins C and E, lutein, zeaxanthin, zinc, and copper helps to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the eyes, slowing down the progression of the disease. It’s important to consult with your eye doctor or health care physician before starting a new supplement regimen.

Low Vision Aids For Macular Degeneration

Low vision rehabilitation involves using devices to help people with AMD maximize their remaining vision to perform daily tasks with greater ease and independence.

Bioptic telescope glasses allow many people with low vision to drive by mounting miniature binoculars onto their regular prescription glasses. By tilting their head slightly down, they can see detail.

E-Scoop glasses provide magnification by shifting the focus onto a healthy part of the retina. It has an anti-reflective coating for outdoor use and a yellow tint to improve contrast and reduce glare.

Prismatic eyeglasses can help patients carry out near-work, like reading or using a tablet, by magnifying and converging simultaneously.

Full-diameter telescopes can magnify and make objects appear closer, allowing patients with macular degeneration to enjoy activities such as watching sports or theater performances.

We Can Help With Your Macular Degeneration

Have you or someone you love been told that nothing else can be done for your macular degeneration? Speak with Dr. Schoenbart and the team at Steven Schoenbart, OD Low Vision to learn more about how low vision rehabilitation can help you regain your independence. Begin your journey towards a better quality of life by scheduling an appointment at our practice in Westbury.