Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an incurable eye disease that affects millions of older Americans, but there are a number of things you can do to reduce your risk, a vision expert says.
AMD causes blurred central vision due to damage to the macula, a small area at the back of the eye, and it is most common after age 60, according to the U.S. National Eye Institute.
AMD is also more common in women and whites, and at-risk patients should get regular eye exams, advised Dr. Julie Rosenthal, a retina specialist at the University of Michigan’s Kellogg Eye Center.
She said there are a number of things people can do to help slow or possibly prevent AMD. If you smoke, try to quit. Smoking may double the risk of AMD.
Find out if you have a family history of the disease. People with a first-degree relative with AMD have a much greater risk of developing it. If you have a family history of the disease, watch for potential symptoms such as difficulty recognizing faces, struggling to adapt to low light and seeing straight lines that appear wavy.
Eat lots of spinach, kale, Swiss chard and other leafy greens, which are high in antioxidant vitamins that help protect against cellular damage from free radicals, which can contribute to eye disease, according to Rosenthal.
If you have a poor diet, consider taking multivitamins. People at risk of advanced AMD should ask their doctor about a specialized blend of supplements called AREDS. This is “not a treatment or cure but can decrease your risk of getting the more severe forms of AMD,” Rosenthal said in a university news release.
When outside, wear sunglasses that provide protection from UV and blue light that can cause retinal damage. Sunglasses with a “UV 400” label are recommended by the American Macular Degeneration Foundation.
Maintain healthy blood pressure and weight. Poor blood circulation due to high blood pressure can restrict blood flow to the eyes, thus contributing to AMD. Losing weight is a proven way to lower blood pressure.
Use a tool called an Amsler grid to check for vision problems related to macular damage. When staring at the grid, if you notice that the central part of your vision in one eye has become darker or the grid lines are wavy, call your doctor, Rosenthal said. Keep the grid in a place that reminds you to use it daily.