Prevent Macular Degeneration and Avoid Vision Loss

Lower your risk of macular degeneration and support of the overall health of your eyes

Credit: Dia™

If you notice any changes to your vision, see your doctor before loss of vision occurs

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of severe vision loss in Canada

It affects more than 800,000 Canadians over age 40. As it is often related to aging, it is commonly called age-related macular degeneration or AMD.

Causes of Macular Degeneration

AMD occurs when the macula – the light-sensitive membrane of the retina that allows us to see fine details – becomes diseased and deteriorates, resulting in a dramatic loss of vision. There are two forms of AMD: dry and wet. 

The dry form occurs when the macula thins and shrinks, preventing it from working properly. The centre of the field of vision slowly becomes blurry or grows dim. This affects up to 90% of patients and is slow to progress. It usually takes years for its effects to be noticed, especially if one eye is working fine.

Little can be done to treat dry AMD. Fortunately, it rarely completely blocks out the central vision and people affected generally live normal lives.

The wet form of AMD occurs when abnormal blood vessels growing under the retina start to leak, causing scarring of the macula. The central part of a person’s vision fades and becomes blurry, and usually vanishes completely, leaving a substantial blind spot. This form of AMD affects approximately 10% of patients and progresses much faster.

How to Prevent Macular Degeneration

While there are no known causes of AMD, there’s much you can do to lower your risk, plus support of the overall health of your eyes:

  • Don’t smoke. There’s a high correlation between smoking and the development of AMD.

  • Wear proper eye protection to prevent UV damage to your eyes from bright sunlight.

  • Eat colourful fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants (e.g., green leafy vegetables, tomatoes, blueberries) and foods that contain omega-3 essential fatty acids (e.g., fatty fish, nuts).
  • Limit dietary fat.

  • Eat foods that contain zinc (e.g., fortified cereals, shellfish).

  • Manage your blood pressure (hypertension and cardiovascular disease are risk factors for AMD).

  • Engage in regular physical activity. 

  • Pay attention to any changes in your vision and go for regular eye exams, especially if you are over 40.

Your vision is precious. Protect and preserve it now by taking action. If you notice any changes to your vision, don’t delay. See your doctor.

Originally published in Wellness Matters, Canada Wide Media’s quarterly newsletter on health and wellness.