Any disease that befalls the eye, especially the kind that reduces our vision can cause great discomfort. Our eyes are our lifelong companion and the moment an affliction comes seeking it we tend to get anxious and worried. Old-age brings along with it many illnesses that adversely affect our organs – one among them being macular degeneration. In this article, we will discuss in detail this eye disease, its progression and what preventive measure can be taken to counter it.
The inside of the back area of the eye is lined with a light-sensitive membrane known as the macula. Owing to various factors, after the age of 55-60, the macula starts to wear down. A visit to the doctor will better give you an idea of the intensity of the disease and accordingly the doctor will prescribe medications. There is no known cure for this disease except the doctor can intervene and decrease the progression of the disease, effectively saving your vision to some extent.
There are 2 types of macular degeneration known as dry AMD that is found in the majority of people and wet AMD found relatively in a lesser number of people. The former occurs gradually with the condition getting bad later but the latter can progress quickly, rather alarmingly, and cause major alterations in one’s vision. In dry AMD, pigments get collected inside the shrunken tissue of the retina whereas in wet AMD new blood vessels get formed behind and around the macula leading to bleeding, that then rests in the macula. Both lead to central vision loss leading to difficulty in identifying fine details of objects and cause inconvenience while reading, writing, driving, etc. However, both conditions don’t cause complete blindness as it does not affect the peripheral vision of a person.
Causes And Symptoms
Macular degeneration is commonly seen in aged people which is why it is also referred to as age-related macular degeneration. In very rare cases it is found in young people as well. The cause of this eye disease is attributed to environmental and genetic factors. Smoking, high cholesterol, obesity, high blood pressure, a nutrient-deficit diet and diabetes are also factors that increase the risk of incurring this disease. In terms of gender, women seem more susceptible to this disease than men, as well as those of the Caucasian race, also seem to stand a greater risk of contracting AMD.
Apart from the fact that both dry and wet AMD are painless, certain symptoms are common to both conditions. They are as follows:
- Straight-ahead vision seems blurred. Simple tasks like reading, writing, driving, etc become increasingly difficult.
- Need for a brightly lit room to be able to see better.
- The appearance of a shadowy area in the center of vision.
- Difficulty in differentiating colors
- Difficulty to recognize faces.
- Straining of eyes in dimly lit rooms.
All cases of wet AMD are said to be preceded by dry AMD and certain symptoms are seen only in those with wet AMD. They are:
- The appearance of a distinguishable blind-spot in the field of vision.
- Haziness or fuzziness in vision.
- The symptoms come by suddenly and deteriorate rapidly.
Although the exact cause of AMD is still under extensive research, experts have stressed certain preventive measures to be taken to not just prevent the probability of occurrence but also to slow the progression, in case someone gets the disease. They are:
- Healthy weight maintenance – an unhealthy weight gain can create havoc to our organs and is the leading cause of many diseases. Studies show that a person with a BMI greater than 30 stands double the chance of getting AMD in their lifetime than someone who keeps a check on their weight. So, avoid fatty, junk food and consume healthy home cooked meals as much as possible.
- Consume a nutrient-enriched diet – avoid processed food and sugary products. Instead, fill up your stomach with foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants as they not only keep AMD at bay but also improves one’s overall health.
- Monitor blood sugar levels – periodically check blood sugar levels as higher the level, more the chances of a person getting AMD. Avoid foods that have a high glycemic index and resort to low-glycemic foods to stabilize one’s blood sugar levels.
- Avoid smoking – experts have pointed out that the chances of a smoker developing AMD is 2-5 folds greater as compared to a non-smoker. Smoking inhibits the free-flow of oxygen to the retina which increases the risk of AMD development.
- Protect your eyes from direct sunlight – some independent studies conducted on AMD have pointed out that prolonged sun exposure increases the risk of AMD owing to retinal damage. Also, those with light-colored irises are said to be at a greater risk comparatively. So, always make sure to protect your eyes whilst stepping out by wearing sunglasses or hats.
- Monitor blood pressure levels – high blood pressure leads to the blood vessels being narrowed, thereby, limiting the oxygen flow to the retina. Thus, increasing the risk of AMD.
- Exercise regularly – often doctors stress upon regular exercising. This is because exercising can keep many a disease at bay, relieve stress, and promote overall wellness. It also promotes heart-health and this, in turn, may help to prevent AMD.
- Befriend your eye doctor – whenever a vision change is observed, especially after the age of 50, do not delay a trip to the eye doctor to address your concerns. Your doctor can guide you to better preserve the health of your eyes and protect your vision.
- Be informed of hereditary diseases – most often neglect acts as a driving force behind the development and worsening of many health conditions. Being informed on diseases that run in the family and conducting periodic check-ups have always helped to better manage symptoms.
- Pamper your eyes – just as rest is important to maintain our overall health, our eyes also require adequate rest. Avoid straining the eyes for long hours. Various massages help relax the eyes and promote eye health. Consume foods rich in carotenoids, flavonoids, antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, vitamins, etc.
Foods To Be Avoided
Consuming certain foods may increase the risk of AMD development as well as progression, and so are best avoided. They are:
- Trans-fats containing processed food.
- Vegetable shortening, margarine, etc.
- Palm oil
- Dairy-food high in fat.
- Red meat
- Aerated drinks, sugar-loaded juices, sweets, etc
Healthy eyes automatically translate to a happy life as our eyes help us to see and have a better understanding of the world around us. Therefore, eye-diseases like AMD that lead to vision loss can be disconcerting for the person in question. If you have crossed your 50s or if you have an elderly person at home, keep track of changes in vision, and book an appointment with the ophthalmologist at the earliest. Undoubtedly, diseases are a part and parcel of our existence and can never be completely avoided. But how we react to and manage a disease that has befallen us is what ultimately paves the way to overcoming it as well as living with it. So, take care of your overall health whilst time lasts and give it the attention it needs to live stress-free.