Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss in people over 50 years old. AMD occurs when the macula (the part of the retina responsible for fine central vision) in the retina is damaged, which blurs the central vision, making it difficult for those affected to drive, read, or even see faces. While patients lose their central vision and ability to see fine details, near or far, side or peripheral vision remains the same.
There are two types of macular degeneration:
Eight out of ten people who have AMD have dry AMD.1 It occurs as the macula thins with age and drusen, clumps of protein, develop. This is a slow process where the patient has no early symptoms, and as of yet, there is no way to fully treat dry AMD.
Wet AMD is much more serious and only occurs when new blood vessels abnormally grow under the retina. Often in these rare occurrences the vessels will leak blood or fluid, scarring the macula. Vision loss for wet AMD is faster than dry, and again, there is no way yet to totally reverse the vision loss.
Those at risk of AMD include:
- People over 50 years of age
- People who smoke
- People with hypertension, heart disease, or high cholesterol
- People whose diet is high in saturated fat (meat, butter, and cheese)
- People of Caucasian descent
- People with a family history
Reduce the Risk of Macular Degeneration – Annual Eye Exams
As there are no noticeable early symptoms of AMD, annual eye exams are crucial for early detection. Most comprehensive eye examinations from an eye care professional include a number of procedures, including a dilated eye examination, which is the best way to detect AMD.
Late stage symptoms of the disease include a blurry area or blank spots near the center of vision. Decreased brightness and straight lines appearing wavy have been reported too. If you experience any of these symptoms, see your eye care professional immediately.
While there are no treatments for dry AMD, some nutritional changes can help. A balanced, nutrient-rich diet including fish, dark leafy greens, and yellow fruits and vegetables can be beneficial for people with dry AMD. You can also slow or reduce the risk of AMD by cutting out smoking, getting regular exercise, and maintaining healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
Supplements may also help people with serious vision loss or lots of drusen. The American Academy of Ophthalmology reports that a large study found dry AMD can be slowed by taking these vitamins and minerals daily:2
- Vitamin C (500 mg)
- Vitamin E (400 IU)
- Lutein (10 mg)
- Zeaxanthin (2 mg)
- Zinc (80 mg)
- Copper (2 mg)
As not all forms of dry AMD benefit from these supplements consult with your eye care professional if you should take them.
For wet AMD laser surgery and anti-VEGF drugs can help reduce the number and leakage of the abnormal blood cells in the retina.
1. Kierstan Boyd. “What Is Macular Degeneration?” American Academy of Ophthalmology, Feb. 28, 2020. (https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/amd-macular-degeneration) Last accessed 3/5/2020
2. Kierstan Boyd. “How is AMD Diagnosed and Treated?” American Academy of Ophthalmology, Feb. 28, 2020. (https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/amd-treatment) Last accessed 3/5/2020
3. N.A. “Age-Related Macular Degeneration.” National Eye Institute, Aug. 2, 2019. (https://www.nei.nih.gov/learn-about-eye-health/eye-conditions-and-diseases/age-related-macular-degeneration) Last accessed 3/5/2020