Given that there is currently no cure for AMD, and treatment options are limited to therapies to halt the progress of the condition, prevention needs to be a key objective. Even though the precise causes of AMD remain unknown, there are a number of risk factors that contribute to the likelihood of developing AMD.
Whether we are dealing with avoidable risk factors (such as smoking or poor diet) or unavoidable risk factors (such as increased age and genetic predisposition) it is essential to raise awareness in the general population so that people can make informed lifestyle choices.
Whether or not people fall in one of the high risk categories, a key message needs to be the importance of early detection. Wet AMD can lead to severe sight loss within as little as three months (anecdotal evidence suggests as little as a few days in some extreme cases). Early detection ensures that all treatment options remain available. Regular eye tests are therefore an absolute necessity.
To find out how you can spot first signs of AMD please go to the “Check your eyesight” page of this site. However, please note that only a trained professional can establish whether or not you have symptoms of AMD. So if in doubt, make an appointment with your eye doctor.
The earlier AMD is diagnosed, the better the chances of preventing vision loss in those types of AMD that respond to treatment. The eye exam might include the following tests:
This measures how well you see at various distances.
Enabling your eye care professional to see more of the retina and look for signs of AMD. To do this, drops are placed into the eye to dilate (widen) the pupil. After the examination, your vision may remain blurred for several hours.
By shining a small light into the back of your eye, the doctor is looking for the presence of drusen, the most common early sign of AMD. The presence of drusen alone does not indicate a disease, but it might mean that the eye is at risk for developing more severe AMD.
While conducting the eye exam, your doctor may ask you to look at an Amsler Grid. This grid is a pattern that resembles a checkerboard. You will be asked to cover one eye and stare at a black dot in the center of the grid. While staring at the dot, you may notice that the straight lines in the pattern appear wavy to you. You may notice that some of the lines are missing. These may be signs of wet AMD.
If your eye care professional suspects you have wet AMD, you may need to have a test called fluorescein angiography. In this test, a special dye is injected into a vein in your arm. Pictures are then taken as the dye passes through the blood vessels in the retina. The photos help your eye doctor evaluate leaking blood vessels to determine whether they can be treated.
The Amsler Grid is a chart that may be helpful in revealing signs of wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD); however, it is not a substitute for regularly scheduled eye exams. The chart looks like a piece of paper with dark lines that form a square grid with one dot in the middle. Visit our Amsler Grid Page to take this self test.
There is growing evidence that by improving your diet, you may also improve the health of your eyes. Research has suggested an association between macular degeneration and a high saturated fat diet.
There is also evidence that eating fresh fruits and dark green, leafy vegetables – foods rich in vitamins C and E, selenium, and carotenoids (including beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin) – may delay or reduce the severity of AMD.
Eat the freshest and brightest fruits and vegetables. Pick the most colorful vegetables and fruits you can find - red, dark green, orange, or yellow. These foods play a key role in keeping your eyes healthy:
Eating fatty fish such as salmon, tuna or mackerel two to three times per week can slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) according to a study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology.
This research further confirms earlier studies that suggested eating fish can help reduce the risk of getting AMD and demonstrates that some of those already affected by the disease can benefit as well.
Nuts not only contain Omega-3 fatty acids, but also copper which can play a role in preventing age-related eye diseases. Even just a handful of nuts at two or three times a week can reduce your risk of AMD.
A high-fat, high-cholesterol diet can lead to fatty plaque deposits in the macular vessels, which can hamper blood flow and increase the risk of AMD. A diet low in fat promotes good eye health. Skip foods and processed baked goods with high-fat content. In addition recent research has indicated that those consuming red meat (10 times a week or more) were at 47% higher risk for macular degeneration.
The National Eye Institute’s Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) found that taking a specific high-dose formulation of antioxidants and zinc significantly reduces the risk of advanced AMD and its associated vision loss. Slowing AMD’s progression from the intermediate stage to the advanced stage will save the vision of many people.
People who should consider taking the combination of antioxidants plus zinc include those who are at high risk for developing advanced AMD. These people are defined as having either:
The doses used in the study were:
While most patients in the study experienced no serious side effects from the doses of zinc and antioxidants used, a few taking zinc alone had urinary tract problems that required hospitalization. Some patients taking large doses of antioxidants experienced some yellowing of the skin. Some supplements may interfere with each other or other medications. Smokers and former smokers should not take beta-carotene, as studies have shown a link between beta-carotene use and lung cancer among smokers. The long-term effects of taking large doses of these supplements are still unknown.
Again, before embarking on a vitamin supplement program, consult with your eye care professional and follow his or her dosage recommendations carefully.
No Smoking! Various studies show a correlation between smoking and AMD. Some studies suggest that people who smoke may be three to four times more likely to have AMD. Exercise. Studies have shown that exercise can reduce risk of AMD and slow the progression of the disease as well. Control your body weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Protect your eyes! There is some evidence that light exposure may be associated with a higher risk of developing AMD. Wear sunglasses, especially in strong light.
AMD Alliance International is not a medical organisation, therefore we can only provide general information that is not intended to be a substitute for a proper medical assessment. Please read our eye health information disclaimer.