Do you or someone you know have Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that there are currently 1.8 million people with AMD and 7.3 million are at risk for the disease. AMD is currently the leading cause of blindness in adults 55 and older and studies estimate that 1 in 3 adults over age 65 will be diagnosed with AMD.
Many of you have probably heard of macular degeneration but may not be exactly sure what it is. The macula, a highly-pigmented spot about the size of a pencil eraser, has the highest concentration of visual cells in the retina and is responsible for your fine-detailed central and color vision. Over time, the macula can deteriorate which can progressively lead to blindness. Many of us think of blindness like living in a dark cave. AMD, however, affects your central vision, leaving your peripheral vision intact. This can leave a dark or empty spot right in the area of our vision we use most and take for granted. We use our macula for many of our daily tasks, such as driving, watching TV, working on your computer or smartphone, or reading the newspaper. Major risk factors for macular degeneration include uncontrollable factors like age, family history (genetics), female gender, and light skin and eyes. Factors you can control are smoking, excessive sun exposure, obesity, cardiovascular disease, poor diet, and lack of exercise. Studies have also shown that low protective pigment levels in the macula of lutein and zeaxanthin are also risk factors. Lutein and zeaxanthin are nutrients we get through our diets or by taking nutritional supplements. Scientists have found that the higher the concentration of these nutrients we have, the better protected we are against AMD.
At EyeCare Specialties we are able to measure the amounts of these key nutrients in your retina using an instrument called the Quantifeye. This painless device gives us a reading of your Macular Pigment Optical Density (MPOD). Once we have this number we are better able to assess your level of AMD risk. Quantifeye is currently only available at our Beatrice location.
Macular degeneration can be a devastating ocular disease but there are steps you can take to help better protect yourself. Start by eating a diet of dark, green leafy vegetables and colorful fruits, eat fish rich in Omega 3’s several times per week, get plenty of exercise, and if you smoke, Stop! Don’t forget to wear your sunglasses to better protect against harmful UV radiation and give EyeCare Specialties a call to set up a time to have your MPOD tested. EyeCare Specialties also carries dietary supplements that can help decrease your risk of developing or possibly slow the progression of macular degeneration.