Posts Tagged ‘macular degeneration’

Age-related macular degeneration in seniors in Plainfield

Age-related macular degeneration in seniors in Shorewood, Joliet, Plainfield, Channahon, Crest Hill, Minooka, Naperville, Morris, Aurora, LockportAs the economic crisis continues, some seniors may believe it’s reasonable to skip their annual eye exam. But for the older population, it’s critically important to keep tabs on the silent stealers of sight – cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic eye disease and macular degeneration. According to the National Eye Institute, by age 65, one-in-three Americans have some form of vision-impairing eye disease.

Often there are no warning signs, so most people don’t know it, or they assume that poor sight is a natural part of aging. It is not. By detecting and treating eye disease early through annual, comprehensive dilated exams, seniors can do so much to preserve their sight.

Let’s focus on just one of the sight-steeling diseases – age-related macular degeneration. The American Health Assistance Foundation tells us it is a common eye disease that causes deterioration of the macula, the central area of the retina, a paper-thin tissue at the back of the eye where light sensitive cells send visual signals to the brain. The macular processes sharp, clear, straight-ahead vision, color and fine detail, and damage to this area results in blind spots and blurred or distorted vision.

Age-related macular degeneration is a major cause of visual impairment in the United States. In fact, it is the leading cause of blindness among Caucasians over age 65. Almost 1.75 million Americans 40 years and older have advanced age-related macular degeneration, and another 7.3 million people with intermediate age-related macular degeneration are at substantial risk for vision loss. It is estimated that by 2020 there will be 2.95 million people with advanced age-related macular degeneration.

There are two forms of macular degeneration: dry and wet. Neither causes pain. The dry form of macular degeneration, in which the light sensitive cells of the macula slowly break down, is the most common type, accounting for 90 percent of diagnosed cases.

Wet macular degeneration accounts for approximately 10 percent of cases but results in 90 percent of legal blindness. It is considered advanced macular degeneration (there is no early or intermediate stage of wet macular degeneration). Wet macular degeneration is always preceded by the dry form of the disease.

To help diagnose macular degeneration, an ophthalmologist will perform a dilated eye exam, and it is imperative for older adults to visit their eye doctor at least once yearly.

Mayo Clinic lists the following risk factors for macular degeneration:

  • Age – The number one risk factor is age.
  • Smoking – Smoking increases an individual’s chances of developing age-related macular degeneration by two to five-fold.
  • Family history of macular degeneration – An individual is more likely to be affected by age-related macular degeneration if someone in his or her immediate family has been affected.
  • Gender – Females are more likely to be affected by age-related macular degeneration than males. This may be due to the fact that females live longer than males, and thus have more time to develop the disease.
  • Race - Caucasians are more likely to be affected age-related macular degeneration than other races. This may be due to differences in genetic background or pigmentation.
  • Prolonged sun exposure – Ultra-violet (UV) light damages retinal tissue directly and can also lead to the accumulation of products that are harmful to the retina.
  • A high fat diet, and/or one that is low in nutrients and antioxidants – Individuals with diets high in fat, cholesterol and sugar, and low in antioxidants are more likely to be affected by age-related macular degeneration.
  • Obesity - Overweight individuals are more likely to be affected by age-related macular degeneration.
  • High blood pressure – High blood pressure, like smoking, leads to a constriction, or narrowing, of the blood vessels that nourish the retina, negatively affecting its health.
  • Eye color – Individuals with light-colored eyes are more likely to be affected by dry age-related macular degeneration. This may be due to the fact that light-pigmented eyes offer less protection from damaging UV light.
  • Inactivity – Individuals who do not follow a regular exercise routine are more likely to be affected by age-related macular degeneration.

Currently, there is no treatment or cure for advanced dry macular degeneration. However, ongoing research is hopeful. New treatment strategies are being investigated including retinal cell transplants, drugs to prevent or slow disease progress, radiation therapy, gene therapies, a computer chip implanted in the retina that may help simulate vision, and agents that will prevent new blood vessel growth under the macula.

Until an effective treatment is found, a healthy lifestyle may reduce the risk of developing macular degeneration. The following are recommended by Mayo Clinic: eat foods containing antioxidants, take antioxidant and zinc supplements (check first with your doctor), eat fish, stop smoking, get regular eye exams, manage other diseases by taking prescribed medications, exercise regularly, and maintain a healthy weight.

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