Vision is precious. It is one of our five senses, and it not only helps add beauty to our lives, but is critical for learning, carrying out tasks of daily living and enjoying our sports and hobbies.

Unfortunately, several medical conditions can alter or destroy your vision. During Macular Health Month, we examine one of the challenges of aging that may eventually lead to blindness: Age-Related Macular Degeneration.

What is Macular Degeneration?

Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is a health condition that blurs the sharp, central vision you need for “straight ahead” activities such as reading, driving, or crafts like sewing, drawing and painting. AMD affects the macula, the part of the eye that allows you to see find detail. As AMD advances, it leads to a blind spot in the central portion of your vision. This blind spot can expand with time. It can lead to total blindness in both eyes. AMD advances so slowly that many people do not notice their vision changes until it is severe.

What are the Risk Factors?

Although AMD is devastating, the good news is this problem can be detected early through annual eye exams. Researchers have also identified certain risk factors for the development of this condition – several of which are lifestyle associated.

Risk factors include the following:

– Cigarette smoking
– Low intake of antioxidants, minerals and carotenoid compounds
– Age and family history
– Early menopause
– Hypertension (high blood pressure and/or cardiovascular challenges)
– A diet high in unhealthy fats, especially “trans” fats
– Prolonged sun exposure

What Can be Done?

Although we can’t do anything about age or family history, the majority of risk factors can be affected by lifestyle decisions and actions. Quitting smoking, controlling blood pressure, decreasing fat intake, increasing fruits and vegetables in your diet and wearing appropriate sunglasses are all things we have control over. 

Regarding diet, significant research has been done in this area which demonstrates the link between nutrition, eye health and macular degeneration. Exciting results regarding lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene and zinc show that diet and nutrition can indeed play a significant role in eye health. Further evidence in the realm of nutrition also brings forward the use of omega-3 essential fatty acids, vitamin D and resveratrol as other supporting nutrients for the welfare of the eyes.

Your vision is precious. Do your utmost to protect it. 

[This article is intended for educational purposes only and it not meant to communicate any treatment for Macular Degeneration.]