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Facts Seniors Should Know About Age-Related Macular Degeneration

By Debbie Waddell, 10:30 am on

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most prevalent eye disease in seniors. Because AMD is so common in the elderly, Placer County, Folsom, and Granite Bay, CA, senior care professionals believe aging adults and their families deserve to know as much as possible about the condition’s symptoms and causes, as well as how to prevent it.

Symptoms

A few of the main symptoms seniors experience due to AMD include:

  • Developing blind spots in central vision
  • Seeing wavy or crooked lines, faded colors, and blurred images
  • Not recognizing faces
  • Needing brighter light for reading

Anatomy

AMD is caused by degradation of the back layer of the eye, also known as the retina. This tissue functions like a camera, converting images into nerve impulses that travel from the optic nerve to the brain. The central portion, called the macula, is the focusing mechanism that controls the ability to read, see colors, recognize faces, drive, and perceive objects in fine detail. When the cells of the macula die, central vision is lost.

There are two main types of AMD:

  • Dry AMD

    Dry AMD is the most common form and is characterized by drusen, which are yellow deposits that form on the retina and beneath the macula. The debris prevents the flow of nutrients and oxygen through the retina. Lacking nourishment, macular cells can deteriorate within 5 to 10 years.
  • Wet AMD

    Wet AMD is more severe than dry AMD, but only occurs in 10 percent of all AMD cases. The term “wet” refers to leakage from fragile arteries that grow abnormally under the macula. When the blood vessels break, the fluid they release causes the macula to pull away from its base. Wet AMD can cause severe central vision loss within months. If hemorrhaging is considerable, visual loss can occur in a few days or even hours.

The major risk factors for these types of AMD include:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Family history
  • Ultraviolet sun damage
  • Smoking

Treatment

To date, there is no specific treatment for dry AMD. However, the Age-Related Eye Disease Study has shown antioxidant vitamins and zinc can slow the disease’s progression by 25 percent.

With wet AMD, prescribed medication can be injected into the eye to prevent abnormal arterial growth. The drug blocks the chemical responsible for this pathology. The rate of vision loss is then slowed, and in some cases, vision increases.

Laser treatment uses a focused, high-energy light beam to burn abnormal arteries. The drawback to this particular intervention is that it leaves a scar, creating a permanent blind spot.

Photodynamic therapy employs a cool laser and light-activated drug, injected into an arm vein. Abnormal vessels absorb the drug, and the laser then activates the drug, which destroys the faulty arteries.

Prevention

To prevent AMD, encourage your loved one to eat fruit and vegetables high in lutein and zeaxanthin, which are antioxidants that protect the retina. Some of the top fruits and vegetables he or she can eat for this purpose include apples, grapes, oranges, mango, melon, broccoli, corn, kale, pumpkin, spinach, and squash. Dark berries may be especially beneficial because the bioflavonoids they contain strengthen the arteries that feed the eye.

Your loved one should also avoid trans fats, which are listed on food labels as “partially hydrogenated oils.” Trans fats are common ingredients in baked goods, fried foods, and margarine. A 2009 study cited by the Archives of Ophthalmology showed eliminating trans fats reduces the likelihood of developing AMD. Trans fats also raise cholesterol levels, causing atherosclerosis, which can lead to blindness. A second study reported by the same journal in the same year found people who ate one weekly serving of fish reduced their AMD risk by 30 percent and those who consumed two weekly servings of nuts high in omega-3 fatty acids slashed their risk by 35 percent. Omega-3 fatty acids can also help prevent atherosclerosis. Walnuts are a rich source of these essential fats.

To learn more about AMD and other diseases your loved one may be at risk for, reach out to Home Care Assistance. We are a leading provider of live-in and respite care Granite Bay, CA, and our caregivers can help prepare nutritious meals, provide transportation to medical appointments, and help with a wide array of important daily tasks. For more information and to schedule a free in-home consultation, call 916.226.3737 today.

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