More than eight million Americans have a problem that isn’t easily corrected: macular degeneration. There is a small area at the back of the eye called the macula that allows us to see fine detail. When the macula becomes damaged, vision toward the center of the area we are focusing on becomes dimmer and hard to distinguish. Two types of macular degeneration exist: wet and dry. The dry type is more common and reduces central vision more slowly.
Wet macular degeneration happens less frequently, when abnormal blood vessels develop in the back of the eye and break and leak fluid underneath the macula.
Most cases of macular degeneration are associated with aging. The American Academy of Opthalmology recommends that persons between the ages of 40 – 54 years have a comprehensive eye examination every two to four years. Between the ages of 55 – 64, they should have these exams every one to three years, and after age 65, have one every one to two years.
Experts have made the following suggestions that we all can apply, regardless of age, in order to try to prevent the onset of macular degeneration:
- Eat fish.
- Limit fats in the diet.
- Have a healthy lifestyle, and maintain a normal weight.
- Eat plenty of fruits, nuts, and dark green leafy vegetables.
- As your physician about taking antioxidant vitamins containing zinc.
- Be extra vigilant if there’s a member of your family that has had it.
- Don’t smoke; it increases the risk five times more than for non-smokers.
If you begin to notice changes in your vision, or see blurry lines on reading materials, consult your physician. He/she may recommend that you see an optometrist or ophthalmologist. Treatments that can possibly slow vision loss include:
- Photodynamic surgery;
- Injections of medicine into eye;
- Laser surgery.
These procedures are done only by opthalmologists. Other aids that may help those whose vision is getting poor are magnifying glasses, better lighting, and large print books and newspapers. A study done last fall showed that people who live in sunny locations are more susceptible to macular degeneration, as the rays from sun can damage the cells of the retina, so wearing sunglasses with UV protection can help.
So, do as Popeye does: eat your spinach, and keep those eyes healthy!