Macula Health

Age-Related Macular Degeneration.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) affects an estimated one million Canadians and is the leading cause of severe vision loss in people over the age of 50. There are different kinds of macular degeneration, but age-related macular degeneration is the most common.

AMD involves the deterioration of the macula, which is a small area in the retina at the back of the eye. When the macula becomes damaged, problems with central vision (such as blurriness, dark areas or distortion) start to become noticeable. These resulting vision problems make activities such as reading and driving, or even seeing faces, difficult or impossible.

The cause of AMD is unknown, but there are significant risk factors such as smoking, a family history of AMD, female gender, age, and lighter skin and eye colour. AMD is far more common in people over the age of 50, although it can affect people at a younger age.

Sometimes only one eye loses vision while the other eye continues to see fairly well for a long period of time. The “good eye” takes over to compensate for vision loss in the other eye and, as a result, you may not notice the problem until both eyes are affected. This is why it is important to go to your eye doctor for regular checkups.

What are the factors that put you at risk for AMD?

  • Age is the greatest risk factor (people over 60 are at greatest risk)
  • Genetics (having immediate family members who have been diagnosed with AMD)
  • Smokers are two to three times more likely to develop AMD
  • Women are more likely to develop AMD than men
  • AMD is more common in Caucasians (especially fair skinned people with lighter coloured eyes)
  • Obesity
  • Uncontrolled high blood pressure
  • Extensive UV exposure
  • Poor diet (high in fat, cholesterol and sugar, and low in antioxidants)
  • Lack of physical activity

How can I prevent AMD?

Regular eye examinations by a doctor of optometry are very important in the early detection of AMD. Early signs of AMD may be found during an eye examination even if no symptoms are noticed. Your doctor of optometry can also discuss ways to minimize the possibility of vision loss due to AMD.

Living a healthy lifestyle is also an important part of preventing AMD. This includes:

  • UV protection
  • good nutrition
  • keeping your blood pressure down
  • reducing your intake of fatty foods
  • not smoking
  • a diet high in antioxidants (found in green leafy vegetables, yellow and orange fruit, fish, and whole grains)

Is there treatment for age-related macular degeneration?

Dry AMD is often treated with nutritional supplements and lifestyle changes such as exercise, reducing UV radiation (wearing sunglasses) and quitting smoking. Many cases of wet AMD can be treated by stopping leaking blood vessels with medications injected into the eye. While certain nutritional supplements can assist in slowing down the progression of AMD, the use of supplements and vitamins will not reverse any vision loss that has already occurred, nor will it stop the progression of AMD completely.

Regular eye examinations with your doctor of optometry are crucial to early detection, intervention and treatment of AMD.

REFERENCES

CNIB AMD Facts and Statistics. Retrieved from http://www.cnib.ca/en/your-eyes/eye-conditions/amd/resources/facts-stats/Pages/default.aspx

The Science of AMD. Retrieved from http://www.scienceofamd.org/learn/

AB Doctors of Optometry Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). Retrieved from http://ab.doctorsofoptometry.ca/age-related-macular-degeneration-amd/

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