The following is from Ernie Jones of the Walla Walla Union Bulletin
Macular degeneration affects up to 10 million Americans and is so commonly associated with aging that it is known as “age-related macular degeneration,” or AMD.
AMD is the leading cause of vision loss in those older than 50. It occurs due to deterioration of the macula, a tiny spot in the central portion of the retina, composed of millions of light-sensing cells that help to produce central vision.
As we age, these light-sensitive photoreceptors in the macula can become thin, worn or damaged, and covered with tiny hyaline deposits known as drusen. This can cause objects directly in front of you to appear blurry and lacking in detail. When looking at a face, an AMD patient may only see the ears clearly — the face is a blur.
#Dry macular degeneration occurs because of a thinning in the tissues in the macula and a dysfunction in the light-sensitive cells. This initially produces subtle vision loss, such as a fuzzy appearance of objects and, eventually, blank spots over the eye’s central vision.
Wet macular degeneration is characterized by the development of abnormal blood vessels in the area between the retina and a layer of supporting tissues behind it. As these blood vessels leak fluid, they damage retinal cells. Over the course of time scar tissue forms, creating a blind spot in the center of the vision. Although wet AMD occurs in only about 10 percent of cases, it’s responsible for nearly 90 percent of severe vision loss from this disease.
Age and heredity appear to be the main causes of AMD, although gender and race appear to play a role. Women are more likely than men to get AMD, and it affects about one in nine Caucasians between ages 65 to 74 and approximately one in four older than age 75, but is uncommon in Asians, African-Americans and American Indians.
Risk factors for AMD include long-term exposure to ultraviolet light; low blood levels of minerals and antioxidant vitamins such as A, C and E; cigarette smoking; heart disease; high cholesterol; and other circulatory problems. A diet rich in partially hydrogenated fats, such as those found in margarine and many snack foods, may also play a part.
AMD develops gradually and painlessly. In dry AMD, one might notice a gradual haziness in vision, colors appear to be more dim, a blind spot appears in the center of the visual field and printed words become increasingly blurry. In advanced cases, faces and printed words might become hard to recognize. In wet AMD you may notice visual distortions, such as straight lines appearing wavy, and sudden decreased central vision
There are steps you can take that may increase your chances of preventing AMD or slow its advancement. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and other foods containing antioxidant vitamins A, C and E is believed to help prevent AMD. Good sources of these nutrients include deep green, yellow and orange vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, chard, spinach, squash, cantaloupe, mango and sweet potatoes.
Some researchers also suspect that food containing lutein and zeaxanthin, found in high concentrations in egg yolks, corn and spinach, might be beneficial. Many experts recommend at least five servings of vegetables each day. Some research suggests that zinc-rich foods such as fish and legumes might also offer a protective effect.
In a study published in the October 2001 issue of Archives of Ophthalmology, researchers found that people at high risk of developing advanced stages of AMD lowered their risk by about 25 percent when they consumed a daily supplement rich in vitamins C and E, beta-carotene and zinc.
Orange, yellow or amber-tinted sunglasses can filter out both ultraviolet and blue light that can damage your retina. Not smoking also helps — smokers are two to three times more likely to develop AMD.
Early detection of macular degeneration is the key to preventing serious vision loss. If you’re older than age 50, yearly eye exams are recommended, especially if you have a family history of AMD. Eye exams are very important, for they can identify early changes in your vision that can otherwise be difficult to detect.