Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a disease that affects the macula, the central part of the retina. Macular degeneration can make detailed tasks, such as reading and driving, identifying faces and recognizing colors very difficult. When AMD progresses, some people experience significant central vision loss, although they may still retain some peripheral vision.
AMD is the leading cause of blindness in developed countries over the age of 60, with a global prevalence of 8.69%. This number is expected to rise as a result of our growing and aging population. By the year 2040, over 288 million will be affected by this disease. There are two different type: Dry AMD and Wet AMD. The dry type is the most common type of disease and can lead to gradual central vision loss over a patient’s lifetime. 10-20% of patients will develop the wet type, which is characterized as bleeding beneath the retina, resulting in acute vision loss.
There are several risk factors for AMD. Some our modifiable, some are not. Risk factors out of our control include age and genetics. There are, however, several risk factors within our control. The number one modifiable risk factor for AMD is smoking. Smoking increases your risk of disease by 2-fold. Other risk factors, believe it or not, include diet and lifestyle. Lower body mass index, lower cholesterol, improved blood sugar and blood pressure control can decrease your risk of vision loss due to AMD. Several studies have reported the benefits of a Mediterranean diet and can decrease progression to Wet AMD by 10-20%.
Currently, dry AMD cannot be treated. Your doctor may address early onset AMD with nutritional therapy. Eating a healthy diet high in antioxidants can help support macular cells. A Healthy diet includes fruits, nuts, omega-3 fatty acids, and green leafy vegetables like kale and spinach. Your doctor may also suggest you take some supplements which may further support macular cell structure and function.
Although there is no cure for Wet AMD, with the advent of Anti-Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (Anti-VEGF) therapy within the last 20 years, there is hope to reduce the burden of disease, stabilize vision and, in some cases, improve vision. Typical treatment for Wet AMD includes initial monthly (every 4-6 week) injections. Once your doctor feels your macular degeneration is less active, treatments may be able to be spaced out in a stepwise fashion.
It is important to have a yearly dilated eye exam after age 50, but sooner, if you have a family history of eye disease.
Bottom line: taking care of your overall health and maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle can help prevent vision loss!
Singh N, Srinivasan S, Muralidharan V, Roy R, V J, Raman R. Prevention of Age-Related Macular Degeneration. Asia Pac J Ophthalmol (Phila). 2017;6(6):520-526. doi:10.22608/APO.2017416
García-Layana A, Cabrera-López F, García-Arumí J, Arias-Barquet L, Ruiz-Moreno JM. Early and intermediate age-related macular degeneration: update and clinical review. Clin Interv Aging. 2017;12:1579-1587. Published 2017 Oct 3. doi:10.2147/CIA.S142685