How you can reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the leading causes of blindness. (Photo courtesy of the National Eye Institute)

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the leading causes of blindness among senior citizens. It affects over two million people nationwide, and that number is expected to more than double within the next 30 years.

But with regular comprehensive eye exams, you can reduce your risk of AMD.

Scheduling an eye appointment with an ophthalmologist is one of the best ways to prolong or even avoid AMD. Ophthalmologists specialize in preventative, medical and surgical treatments that can help you fix or prevent AMD symptoms altogether.

What is age-related macular degeneration?

AMD damages the retina (the light-sensitive tissue of the eye that focuses images before sight signals are relayed to the brain), which, over time, can lead to permanent vision loss. This loss of vision can impair one's ability to drive, read, and even recognize the faces of people known for years.

AMD is a degenerative disease that comes in two different forms, dry and wet. The dry form is most common and is slow-progressing, but up to 10 percent of patients with dry AMD may convert to the wet type of AMD, which is much faster progressing.

Both can result in blindness if an individual does not take action. So, aside from scheduling regular and thorough eye examinations, what can you do to prevent this disease from impacting you?

Quit smoking. Did you know that smoking can double your odds of developing AMD? The possibility of developing a serious eye condition is just one of the many harmful effects smoking has on the body, so do yourself a favor and quit – your eyes will thank you.

Pay close attention to your elderly relatives. If a member of your family has developed AMD, you are 50 percent more likely to fall victim to the condition yourself. Sharing information between family members before you see a specialist can help your eye doctor better determine your potential risks, increasing the chances of preserving your vision.

Omega-3s are essential. Most people don't get enough healthy fats, such as omega-3s, in their diet. However, several studies have shown these types of fats are essential for eye health, and they can even reduce a person's risk of developing AMD. At the same time, reducing the amount of unhealthy fats a person eats, such as saturated fats, can also be beneficial.

**For reference, omega 3 fats are typically found in fish, while saturated fats often come from red meats and processed foods.

Listen to what Mom always said: eat your veggies – especially the green ones! Studies have shown that people who regularly consume dark, leafy greens have up to a 43 percent less chance of developing AMD. Maybe your parents were onto something, after all.

Exercise is the key. A sedentary lifestyle can actually increase a person's risk of developing glaucoma and AMD, so be sure to get out there and get your 30 minutes of exercise a day!

Dr. Robert Park and Dr. Raj Patel are fellowship-trained retina specialists with Carolina Ophthalmology. They treat retinal diseases such as macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, retinal holes, tears, and detachments. Schedule an appointment with one of the highly qualified ophthalmologists at Carolina Ophthalmology by calling 800-624-6575 or visiting