Did you know February is Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) Month? If you’re unsure what age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is, we will tell you about it. It’s the #1 cause of vision loss for people over the age of 60 in the U.S., according to the American Foundation for the Blind. It’s estimated that 10 to 15 million people suffer from AMD, which has a gradual onset and results in a macula’s progressive, painless deterioration.
The macula is the small area in the middle of the retina. The retina lines the eyeball and records everything we see. It sees details the best in the macula, which is the center point. But when this area is damaged, detail vision is impacted, causing a reduction in the clarity of what you are focusing on directly.
This affects many things we all do daily, from driving and reading to crafting and sewing. To make matters worse, macular degeneration may also affect our “contrast sensitivity” — the ability to see objects in a similar tone as their background. In turn, this makes it tough to identify faces or detect the definition in steps and curbs. As a general rule, though, peripheral vision is not affected.
What are the Risk Factors?
Age is a significant risk factor, but it’s certainly not the only one. And you could contract AMD well before reaching age 60, so this is only a guideline. It could show up earlier than you would expect. This is another reason why regular eye doctor visits are imperative. Here are some other risk factors:
- Smoking doubles your risk of getting AMD.
- Caucasians are more likely than African-Americans or Hispanics/Latinos to get AMD.
- Family history of the disease puts you at a higher risk.
How Can You Lessen Your Risk?
While you can’t control your race or family history, you can incorporate a healthy diet and lifestyle to lower your risk of AMD:
- Keep your blood pressure down
- Avoid smoking
- Exercise every day
- Maintain low cholesterol levels
- Eat lots of green, leafy vegetables
- Eat fish high in omega-3s (think salmon)
You should keep up with your annual eye appointments too, where your doctor will screen you for age-related macular generation, especially as you get close to age 60.