With age, many adults begin to suffer from decrease in visual acuity. With baby boomers reaching retirement, the incidence of decreasing eye health will be a factor in the minds of many patients and health care providers. Of these, we anticipate an increased incidence of macular degeneration as seen in the 1.7 million Americans who currently suffer with macular degeneration. Understanding the origin, causes and symptoms will aide patients as well as health care workers to identify and treat this debilitiating eye disorder.
As a progressive and painless loss of vision, macular degeneration is usually detected, in its early stages, by an eye care professional. Stages of macular degeneration are described as two-pronged with a “wet” versus “dry” classification. In the center of the eye is the macula which provides our central field of vision. This central field is necessary in driving and reading. By age 75, 30% of the population will suffer from either the “wet” or “dry” macular degeneration visual loss. In either stage, when undiagnosed, the condition will lead to vision loss as it progresses through the degenerative stages. With some genetic basis, macular degeneration is further aggravated by a decrease in oxygen supply withn the cells of the retina. The condition begins with standard onset of blurred vision with progressive shadowing. Most patients, in the progressive stage, describe waviness of objects within their view. More often caucasion females are impacted more than any other race or gender.
Risk factors, beyond race,gender and age, for developing macular degeneration include smoking habits with 25% of macular degeneration suffers describing a history of smoking. As with cataracts, macular degeneration is significantly progressed as an oxygen deprivation of the eyes occurs. Additionally, weight and level of inactivity may play a signficiant role in the development of macular degeneration, primarily based on lack of oxygen within the body.
An odd aspect of macular degeneration is the impact of eye color to the incidence of the disorder. For individuals with lighter eye color and lighter skins, the incidence of macular degeneration is much more signficiant than individuals with darker colored skin and eyes. However, to date, there has been no research to conclusively confirm the suggested theory that pigmented eyes prevent the development of macular degeneration. However, based on the incidental rate among lighter colored eyed individuals, this is considered a risk factor of unknown origin.
In addition to these various side effect, medications may plan a role in the development of macular degeneration. The use of anti-psychotic and medications associated with toxic response may also attribute to the development or advancement of macular degeneration.
If diagnosed with macular degeneration, treatment options are varied. As there is no cure available, the goal of treatment will generally lie within delay of progressive of the eye disorder. To do this, your health care provider may recommend in increase in the use of various nutrients such as zinc at 45 mg per day, vitamin C at1000 mg three times a day and E at 600 IU per day. In some cases, a significant use of antioxidants, in combination with zinc, may bring the progression of macular degeneration to a standstill. Green, leafy vegetables in addition to fish containing healthy omega-3 fatty acids are highly recommended as is the use of ginkgo as these nutrients increase the blood flow through the brain thereby increasing the supply of oxygen. The use of magnifying lenses and bright lights will further improve the loss of visual acuity.
To summarize, the loss of visual acuity, with age, is common. For caucasion women, the disorder exhibits a higher incidence rate. In an effort to prevent and slow the progression of the disease, it is recommended that a daily balance of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals will further ensure prolonged use of your eyes well into retirement.