Are You at Risk for Macular Degeneration?

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If you’re over 65 and of European descent, you could be at risk for macular degeneration, the leading cause of age-related vision loss.

Yet, lifestyle choices can help slow the disease’s progression and possibly prevent it if started early enough, according to Dr. Michael Caruso, ophthalmic physician and surgeon, Atlantic Eye Center.

“Most people have heard about glaucoma and cataracts,” he said, “but macular degeneration is another serious eye disease that people should know about. It’s an age-related disease that causes damage to the macula, the ultra-sensitive part of your retina. This is the part of our eye that gives us sharp focus in the center of our vision. We use it for reading, driving, recognizing faces, watching television and doing fine detail work.”

What is Macular Degeneration?

There are two forms of macular degeneration: wet and dry. Most people have the dry form, which is caused by the aging and thinning of the tissues of the macular. Vision loss is gradual.  Ten percent of people will have the wet form, where abnormal blood vessels form underneath the retina and leak blood and fluid. In those cases, vision loss is rapid and severe.

The condition, however, may be barely noticeable in its early stages. Words on a page may look blurred or straight lines may appear distorted. Then, there may be a dark or empty area that appears in the center of vision. Sometimes, one eye compensates for the other and you don’t notice it at all, but gradually, the disease will progress, making it difficult or impossible do perform simple tasks, such as reading or threading a needle.

Know the Risk Factors

The exact causes of macular degeneration are unknown. However, researchers have discovered several risk factors. These include:

  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Excessive exposure to sunlight
  • Being of European descent/Caucasian
  • Increased age
  • High blood pressure and/or cardiovascular disease
  • A family history of macular degeneration
  • Being female

Steps to Lower Your Risk

  • Don’t smoke
  • Wear sunglasses or a brimmed hat to limit UV exposure
  • Control your blood pressure
  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Limit your fat consumption
  • Schedule annual eye exams

Atlantic Eye Center is located at 207 Stone Harbor Blvd., Court House, NJ 08210. For more information or to schedule an appointment, visit www.doctormichaelcaruso.com or call (609) 465-1616. You can also find them on Facebook.