Know Your Risk Factors: Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration is a progressive eye disease affecting the retina. This disease usually shows up in people over age 65, and it gets worse with time. Left untreated, macular degeneration can seriously affect your vision and make your life more difficult.

As you move through your later years, you might feel concerned about developing this disease. You want to know how you can prevent it, or when you should make an appointment with an eye doctor.

There’s no magic formula to determine whether or not you will develop macular degeneration. However, the medical community does know of quite a few risk factors that increase your likelihood.

When you know these risk factors, you can assess if you have a greater chance of developing macular degeneration than the average person. You can best treat this disease through prevention and early detection. So if you do have some risk factors, make an appointment with a retinal specialist to come up with a preventive plan.

What Is Macular Degeneration?

There are two types of macular degeneration: dry and wet. The dry variety affects more people than the wet. Doctors also have an easier time treating the dry type.

Dry Macular Degeneration

The macula is found in the center of the retina, which is the light-sensitive tissue found in the inner surface of the back of the eye. With dry macular degeneration, the cells in the center of the macula break down. It usually results in vision loss in the center of your vision. This doesn’t hurt, so you probably won’t notice it apart from the loss of vision.

You’ll have an easier time treating this disease if you catch it early, so watch out for any vision changes, such as having trouble adjusting to dim light.

Wet Macular Degeneration

Wet macular degeneration happens when blood vessels creep in behind your retina. These vessels seep blood, and the cells in your macula begin to die. The fluid buildup can also cause scarring.

Wet macular degeneration is more serious. Doctors always consider it an advanced disease. This type can damage your vision in just a few weeks, so you should seek treatment with your eye doctor as soon as possible if you start experiencing unexplained central vision loss.

Some people have both types of macular degeneration at once. Others have macular degeneration in just one eye, and still others have one type of macular generation in each eye.

Risk Factors

To catch macular degeneration early, consider the following risk factors:

Age

Your risk of developing macular degeneration increases with age. While you can’t do much about getting older, you can help lessen your chances by staying active and maintaining a healthy diet. Good overall health equals good eye health.

Family History

Genetics can play a role in macular degeneration. This means if someone in your family has this disease, you have a higher chance of developing it.

While you can’t change your DNA, knowing what’s in your gene pool can still help you. Tell your eye doctor about your family history so you can stay on top of your eye health. This way, if you do develop the disease, you’ll be able to catch it early and treat it effectively.

High Cholesterol

People with high cholesterol have a higher risk of eye disease. High cholesterol often means your diet has lots of fatty foods and not many fruits and vegetables.

Fruits and vegetables contain loads of helpful antioxidants that can seriously reduce your risk of macular degeneration. If you change your diet and take the proper medication, you can lower both your cholesterol and your risk of eye disease.

Obesity

Obesity increases your risk for a host of medical maladies, including advanced macular degeneration. Being overweight increases your risk of developing this eye disease and the likelihood of its progressing quickly into the advanced stages.

Men in particular should keep their eyes on their stomachs. Excess abdominal fat causes greater health problems than fat in other parts of the body. If you would like to shed a few pounds, talk to your doctor about the best diet and exercise plan for you.

Smoking

Smoking more than doubles your risk of developing macular degeneration. Your retina needs lots of oxygen, and smoking constricts your blood vessels. Quitting is a tough, but the benefits are worth it. You can find resources to help you stop smoking online or through a smoking cessation center.

High Blood Pressure

Similar to smoking, high blood pressure constricts your blood vessels. This means less blood and oxygen flow to your retina. Follow your doctor’s orders and eat a healthy diet to get your blood pressure under control and let your retina breathe.

Light Exposure

Ultraviolet rays can damage your retina and subsequently your vision. Wear sunglasses when you want to enjoy the sunshine. Brimmed hats help as well.

Gender

Females have a greater chance of developing macular degeneration than males. Older women should stay vigilant about their eye care and watch out for symptoms of trouble.

Eye Color

People with light eyes are more likely to get macular degeneration than people with dark-colored eyes. Macular degeneration also affects Caucasian people more than people of other races.

If you have pale, light eyes, make sure you watch out for other warning signs of eye disease.

While macular degeneration doesn’t have a cure, you can still help your eyes stay healthy. Know you