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Risk Factors and Prevention of Age-Related Macular Degeneration

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Dr. Guy Eakin

In this audio presentation, Dr. Guy Eakin talks about the factors that increase the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration and the actions that can be taken to prevent or slow the progress of the disease. This presentation is part 5 of a 6 part series on macular degeneration.

  • Dr. Guy Eakin: Hello! I am Dr. Guy Eakin. Today, I am discussing the factors that increase the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration and the actions that can be taken to prevent or slow the progress of the disease.

    The known risk factors for AMD fall into two categories; those we can do something about, and those we can't. Age, gender, race, eye color, and family history of macular degeneration are all risk factors that we have no control over. Age for instance, everyday we grow a day older and once we reach 75 there is a one in three chance we will have some form of AMD. Regarding gender, women may be more likely than men to develop AMD.

    Caucasians are more likely to be affected by AMD than other racial groups as our people with light colored eyes. But other races aren't off the hook and may be more rare but it can be just as severe and may be under diagnosed in other races.

    And just as it's true that we can't choose our families, we can't choose our genetic inheritance either. A family history of macular degeneration raises the possibly of developing it ourselves.

    Knowing we are particularly vulnerable to the disease can motivate us to act on the things we can affect. Number one, research has shown that smoking increases the chances of developing AMD by up to 500%, think of that.

    Smoking constricts blood vessels all over the body and is particularly destructive to vision because it robs the retina of oxygen. As difficult as it is to quit smoking, protecting your sight is a powerful incentive to do it. Even if AMD is already present, stopping smoking can help by improving the oxygen delivery to the eye.

    We also know that prolonged exposure to the suns ultra violet light directly damages the retina, cornea and lens. This is especially true since we are living longer and at any one time or probably being exposed to more UV than previous generations. UV light contributes to both AMD and formation of cataracts and it effects are cumulative.

    Luckily, there are many ways to block UV radiation from entering the eye. These include wearing UV protective sunglasses or prescription lenses or even a white brim hat. An eye care professional can suggest other protections. An inadequate diet, high blood pressure, obesity, and physical inactivity may also all contribute to AMD and other diseases. Even modest improvements in these areas can both enhance eye health and bring an overall increase in physical and emotional well being.

    Start slowly by getting regular exercise and eating a very nutritious diet that includes leafy green vegetables, fruit, and fish. Add that to protecting the eyes from the sun rays, quitting smoking, and visiting an eye doctor regularly for eye exams, then you have an excellent recipe for healthier vision and a healthier life. Now is a great time to start.

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