Age related macular degeneration
Age related Macular Degeneration (ARMD) is the most common cause of irreversible vision loss in the western world in people over 50 years of age. The risk of severe vision loss increases with age. There are two forms of macular degeneration: atrophic (dry) and Exudative (Wet). Some risk factors include a family history of ARMD, Caucasian, UV sunlight exposure, obesity, poor diet, and lack of exercise. The only modifiable risk factor is cigarette smoking. You would never know that you have ARMD unless your eyes are examined by a doctor of optometry/ophthalmology using a technique called ophthalmoscopy. Presentation is with a gradual impairment of vision over months or years. Both eyes are usually affected but vision loss is often asymmetrical. There is no cure for ARMD as to date but research shows that high doses of antioxidants help slow the progression. Supplemental antioxidants include vitamins C, E, zinc, copper, Lutein, and Zeaxanthin. Vitamin A (Beta Carotene) used to be included in the formulation but it has been found to cause lung cancer in patients who smoke or who used to smoke. Three key behaviors to diminish the risk of developing ARMD are a healthy diet, physical activity, and not smoking. This reminds us that the risk for ARMD passes to subsequent generations not only through genes but also possibly through the lifestyle habits we model and encourage. Lastly, we always see patients who express a desire to do something to decrease their risk of developing ARMD and we tell them that there are no studies to support the use of supplements to prevent ARMD formation but it is certainly an acceptable approach until we have even further research to either confirm or refute their use. There are two main companies on the market that sell vitamins specifically for ARMD and they can be found over the counter. A routine eye exam should be completed every two years until the age of 65 not only to verify your glasses prescription but also to diagnose disease and maintain your ocular health. After all, you only have 2 eyes and the gift of sight is priceless.