5 Surprising Contributors to AMD and What You Can Do About It

5 Surprising Contributors to AMD and What You Can Do About It

If you ask most people about macular degeneration they often respond with something like, “Ohhhh yeah, that’s that eye disease you get when you’re old.” So few realize that macular degeneration is not a disease you get just because your body is breaking down from old age but rather a combination of accumulative effects throughout life.

Recognizing how you might be unknowingly contributing to your future development of macular degeneration may be the most important health tool you have. These 5 surprising contributors to age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and what you can do about, are a quick reference to helping protect your vision. For those already struggling with AMD, some of this information may be useful in strengthening your vision while possibly slowing disease progression at the same time.

Tricky Dry Eyes

Continually dry eyes can progress to AMD if left untreated. However, what is known as dry eye syndrome (DES) can sometimes feel like the opposite when you experience continuous tear production. This condition may be caused by allergens or other environmental factors but don’t just wait until symptoms subside. Scratches and infections are more susceptible with DES as well as other possible causes such as blocked tear ducts. If you have excessively dry or tearing eyes visit your doctor.

What to do to prevent dry eye syndrome:

  • Reduce screen time
  • See your eye doctor for lubricating drops
  • Wear sunglasses
  • Stay hydrated
  • Cover with warm compresses
  • Increase omega-3 fatty acids

Second Hand Smoke

Less people are exposed to tobacco smoke than ever before. Yet, there are still millions that live with it or use it everyday. The National Federation for the Blind (NFB) cites a study that linked second hand smoke to AMD development/progression stating that, 

“Researchers at Cambridge University UK have studied the impact of smoking on the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), one of the most common causes of blindness. They discovered that living with a smoker for five years doubles the risk of developing AMD, and being a smoker triples it. Research has already shown that smoking increases AMD risk, but this is the first study to show similar risks from passive “secondhand” smoke.”

What to do about second hand smoke and your vision health:

  • Demand that smokers smoke outside
  • Don’t frequent smoke filled rooms
  • Wear eye protection such as non-prescription glasses
  • If you smoke, quit

Mental Stress

Don’t fool yourself when it comes to stress.This silent killer has been linked to scores of health challenges and studies show macular degeneration in the crosshairs as well.

Recently published in European Association for Predictive, Preventive, and Personalized Medicine, the study ‘Mental stress as consequence and cause of vision loss” stated,

“While prolonged mental stress is clearly a consequence of vision loss, it may also aggravate the situation. In fact, continuous stress and elevated cortisol levels [stress hormones] negatively impact the eye and brain due to autonomous nervous system (sympathetic) imbalance and vascular dysregulation [abnormal impairment]; hence stress may also be one of the major causes of visual system diseases such as glaucoma and optic neuropathy [macular degeneration]”

The same study finally cites coping strategies medical professionals should implement suggesting that,

“Stress reduction and relaxation techniques should be recommended not only as complementary to traditional treatments of vision loss but possibly as preventive means to reduce progression of vision loss. Doctors should try their best to inculcate [persist] positivity and optimism in their patients while giving them the information the patients are entitled to, especially regarding the important value of stress reduction and relaxation. Statements of a grim future such as “you will go blind” should be strictly avoided. This induces unnecessary anxiety and fear, possibly accelerating vision loss progression”

What to do to reduce mental stress for vision health:

  • Stay Positive – No longer accept negative reference to your current or possible future AMD development from anyone, including your doctor. Only get the facts for prevention and treatment while staying as positive as you can.
  • Get Quiet – Find a meditation technique that works for you. It is no longer necessary to join a meditation class as now there are many phone and computer apps that provide excellent guidance to get you started.
  • Talk it Out – Talk therapy significantly reduces stress while helping navigate it when it arises.
  • Stay Social – Do not become reclusive as this will inevitably prey on your stress levels.
  • Seek Nature – Connecting with nature is proven to reduce stress levels.
  • Change – Whether it’s a job, relationship or other cause of your mental stress, change it.
  • Sleep – If you don’t get enough, get more as less fatigue means less stress and less eye strain

Lack of Cleanliness

You’re probably a very clean person but sometimes your hectic schedule or other distracting factors may get the best of you. However, when it comes to preventing or slowing AMD, cleanliness is paramount. Keep your eyes clean as infection, vision straining and pathogens can all lead to macular degeneration.

What to do for eye cleanliness:

  • Remove all makeup especially thick, built up eye liner which can block important oil glands
  • Keep contact lenses disinfected and rotated accordingly
  • Use an over-the-counter (OTC) sterile eye wash
  • Avoid preservative heavy eye drops

High Fat Diet

Anything with the term “high fat” in it can’t be good but if you just happen to be someone who consumes lots of fried and processed foods, chances are you have a high fat diet. In addition to a laundry list of health risks, a high fat diet has been linked to AMD progression.

CBS News reported on a study of 349 people which found that, “there is a strong link between a high-fat diet and shrinking vision in aging baby boomers.” It is believed that this link is associated with heart disease caused by unhealthy fats.

According to study author Dr. Johanna Seddon,

“There is some common thread between the risk factors associated with heart disease, cardiovascular disease, and the risk factors associated with age-related macular degeneration,”

What to do about high fat and your vision health:

  • Eat more healthy fats like Omega-3 fatty acids, avocado, hemp oil, and flaxseed
  • Add a few handfuls of organic blueberries to your diet which contain heart friendly antioxidants
  • Increase more plant-based choices and decrease animal products
  • Incorporate more exercise into your life

These 5 surprising contributors to age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and what you can do about show how simple adjustments could make a big difference. Before you succumb to vision challenges or forget about your future eye health, stop and look at these and many other pro-active choices you can implement to help maintain optimal eyesight.