3 Macular Degeneration Risks and What You Can Do About It

3 Macular Degeneration Risks and What You Can Do About It

It is believed that macular degeneration, mostly affecting those well into their sixties, seventies and beyond, is the accumulation of lifelong habits that seem to be some, of many, major causal factors.

If you are not in the affected age demographic then taking heed of these 3 macular degeneration risks and what you can do about it to assist future optimal vision health. If you are part of the demographic or even suffering from age-related macular degeneration (AMD), reducing these risks can be possible and may help prevent or alleviate symptoms.

Either way, it is important to confront this disease that, according to a report by the Tennessee Citizen Tribune, is, “the leading cause of legal blindness [] for persons over age 65 in the United States, it accounts for 14 percent of new legal blindness, with 16,000 cases reported annually.”

With numbers like these there is a mad dash to offer as much information to the public as possible while accelerating as many studies to reduce and, in time, eliminate macular degeneration. The way things are going, there is a good chance that this may be a reality sooner than later.

Smoke and Mirrors

We all know by now that smoking is bad for you but many don’t know that it could lead to or increase macular degeneration. Yet, the tobacco industry still thrives, both in targeting American youth and blatantly stepping up advertising campaigns to poor children overseas.

The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids reports on a 2013 study,

“Tobacco companies, which have been banned from targeting children and teens in the United States, are focusing on young people in the developing world, according to Scientific American. These companies’ tactics continue despite an international treaty, the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which is designed to limit tobacco manufacturers’ marketing in developing nations.”

This kind of advertising and glorification in places like films and videos makes for the potential of continuing generations of future AMD patients. A study published in the Journal of Ophthalmology (12/4/13) concluded that interventions to minimize the role of environmental factors could reduce the incidence of AMD stating that,

“Among, them cigarette smoking is a proven risk factor for both development and progression of AMD, [] smoking by itself promotes molecular and pathological changes that may establish an ideal macular microenvironment for the development of AMD: vascular inflammation and endothelial [organ cells] dysregulation, oxidative damage, toxic damage, and histopathological [study of diseased tissue] changes. However, patients are not frequently aware of the significant role played by cigarette smoking in blindness associated with AMD. Sometimes, even physicians forget about advising patients of the relevance to quit smoking. Quitting smoking reduces the risk of AMD, and after 20 years of cessation the risk of developing AMD is the same as for nonsmokers.”

Quitting smoking is not easy but there are many more tools you can use to get there including:

  • E-cigarrettes
  • Nicotine patches or gum
  • Hypnotism
  • Acupuncture
  • Medication

Avoid the Light

As our planet deals with the constant onslaught of human influence, the weather remains in constant flux. This includes being exposed to more harmful ultraviolet light than ever before. Ultraviolet light comes in three category’s, UV A, B & C with overexposure to any three showing varying potential for the development of some level of skin cancer. However, when it comes to sight, recent studies present the dangers of risking AMD development when exposed to any type of UV light.

Researchers at the Department of Natural Sciences, Fordham University, New York City published a study in Eye & Contact Lens (7/11) titled, ‘Ultraviolet radiation as a risk factor for cataract and macular degeneration’ reporting that,

“The human eye is constantly exposed to sunlight and artificial lighting. Light transmission through the eye is fundamental to its unique biological functions of directing vision and circadian rhythm, and therefore, light absorbed by the eye must be benign. However, exposure to the intense ambient radiation can pose a hazard particularly if the recipient is over 40 years of age. This radiation exposure can lead to impaired vision and transient or permanent blindness.”

The Review of Optometry report, ‘The Role of UV Damage in Ocular Disease’ (10/12) stated,

“Research suggests that AMD is the result of free radical damage. One of the more common reasons for free radical damage is exposure to ultraviolet radiation. Studies have shown that many individuals with macular degeneration have had greater UV exposure over their lifetime.”

Avoid UV light, especially during spring and summer daylight hours of 10am to 4pm when it is at optimal strength. Because UV light bounces off reflective ground covering such as snow, water, pavement, sand and even grass it is imperative to protect your eyes with proper sunglasses. Not only should the lenses be made of high quality UV blocking grade but they must be a wraparound design to block UV ray reflections that can reach your eyes from the sides.

Get to the Heart of It

Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, can cause systemic problems that include blood clots, kidney disease, stroke, sexual dysfunction and heart failure. However, it doesn’t stop there with recent studies showing the significant effect of hypertension on eye pressure, namely macular degeneration and glaucoma.

High blood pressure causes a strain on ocular blood vessels resulting in a narrowing or bleeding that can lead to ARED, age-related eye disease. In addition, if the pressure becomes too great the optic nerve can swell compromising healthy vision and leading to complications such as AMD. Researchers have also warned that development of AMD may be a marker for cardiovascular disease and doctor’s should take note.

Healio Ocular Surgery News reported,

“Recent studies have found that major eye diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration, retinopathy and glaucoma, are triggered by the same systemic factors that cause cardiovascular disease (CVD). In fact, many of these ocular diseases can be red flags, signaling the need for a cardiovascular examination in a patient not yet diagnosed with CVD.”

Unless caused by trauma or a genetic disposition, hypertension can be a manageable or even eradicated disease if some extra effort and lifestyle changes are administered. Many people spend their entire lives on high blood pressure meds rather than implement the following:

  • Regular exercise
  • Reduction of excessive salt
  • Maintaining healthy weight
  • Regular blood pressure monitoring
  • Reduction of trans fats and processed foods
  • Consuming a balanced, high plant based diet
  • Reduction or elimination of alcohol and tobacco

Don’t let easy fixes slip through your fingers and have you end up suffering with macular degeneration and eventually vision loss. All it takes is some self-control, use of easy tools such as sunglasses, and committing to living a healthier lifestyle.