According to the National Institutes of Health, macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in people who are over 60. An estimated 10 million Americans suffer from this condition.
The term macula is used to refer to the center part of your eye’s retina. This part of your eye is the key to your central vision. It enables you to read, recognize people’s faces, and see detail in objects. If the macula starts to degenerate, your central vision becomes impaired and causes blindness.
Macular degeneration most often impacts people who are 50 years of age or older, which is called age-related macular degeneration, but it can happen to younger people as well. Although it is very rare, a form of macular degeneration referred to as Stargardt disease typically occurs in younger adults.
Types of macular degeneration
There are both dry and wet forms of macular degeneration. Dry age-related macular degeneration is the most common and occurs in 90 percent of those suffering from macular degeneration. It’s a more slow and progressive form of the disease.
Cases of wet macular degeneration are more rare. In this instance, the condition spreads rapidly and is much more severe since it causes an abnormal amount of blood vessels to begin growing behind the macula. Thankfully, there are some laser treatments and injections that can be used to treat wet macular degeneration. The dry version of the condition does not have any proven treatments, but there are ways to prevent it from forming. Take a look at the things you can and cannot control when it comes to macular degeneration.
- You cannot control your age
Whether you like it or not, you’re going to continue to age. Your risk of developing macular degeneration drastically increases after you hit 50.
- You cannot control gender
Women account for nearly two-thirds of macular degeneration cases.
- You cannot control your gene pool
Your genetic makeup can either put you at for developing macular degeneration or protect you from it. If a close relative of yours develops macular degeneration, you have a 50 percent chance of developing the condition as well. In addition, there are at least 20 different genes that can impact the risk associated with macular degeneration. It’s important to understand your family’s health history and schedule more frequent eye exams if you find yourself to be more at risk.
- You cannot control ethnicity
Statistics show that macular degeneration is more common in Caucasian people. In addition, wet macular degeneration is more common in people of Asian decent.
- You do control how often you visit your eye doctor
Macular degeneration can be difficult to notice in its early stages. Regular visits to your ophthalmologist are a critical part of diagnosing the condition early. It’s recommended that you visit an eye doctor once every two years.
- You can control your diet
A good diet can have an impact on your eyesight as well. Eating healthy foods such as leafy greens, salmon, nuts, and fruit, can help ensure your macula stays healthy.
- You can control physical activity
Studies show that people who were lightly active just 10 hours per week were less likely to develop macular degeneration.
Macular degeneration is a scary condition. While there are many things you cannot control about the disease, there are a few things you can control that might help prevent it from developing as quickly.