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Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss, affecting millions of Americans throughout the United States. It is caused by the deterioration of the central portion of the retina, which records the images we see everyday and sends them through the optic nerve from the eye to your brain. The macula is the small, central part of your retina that is responsible for focusing your central vision. It controls your ability to read, drive a car, recognize facial features, distinguish between colors, and see objects in detail.
When the macula starts to deteriorate, the images you see are not received correctly. As the condition advances, individuals can experience wavy or blurred vision, and if it becomes more severe, your central vision can be completely lost. Some factors may increase your risk of developing macular degeneration.
Risk Factors for Macular Degeneration
- Age – Age is the number one risk factor for macular degeneration. Your risk for this eye condition increases as you age, and generally occurs in people who are 55 and older.
- Genetics – If your family has a history of macular degeneration, you are at higher risk for developing it.
- Gender – Females are more likely to develop macular degeneration than males. This may be because females generally live longer than males, causing women to have more time to develop the condition.
- Race – Caucasians are more likely to develop this disease than any other race. This factor might be related to differences in pigmentation or genetic background.
- Eye Color – If you have light-colored eyes, you are more likely to develop dry macular degeneration. Light-colored eyes offer less protection from the harmful UV rays of the sun, damaging the retina and making you more at risk for developing this condition.
- Smoking – If you smoke, it doubles your chances of developing macular degeneration. Smoking causes oxidative damage, which contributes to the development and advancement of this disease. Due to the retina requiring a high amount of oxygen, anything that interferes with oxygen being delivered to the retina may affect your vision.
- Diet – If your diet consists mostly of high glycemic index foods, fat and cholesterol, and is low in antioxidants and vegetables, you may be more at risk for developing macular degeneration. High glycemic index foods, such as bread, raise your blood sugar levels quickly. Whereas low glycemic foods, like whole grain bread, stabilize your blood sugar levels, lowering your risk for developing this disease.
- High Blood Pressure – If you have high blood pressure, it can constrict your blood vessels that help nourish the retina, restricting the oxygen flow to your eye.
- Not Exercising – If the retina in your eye is not receiving enough oxygen, your macula cells will begin to deteriorate. Exercising can improve your cardiovascular health, providing adequate oxygen to the retina and help prevent macular degeneration from occurring.
- Macular Degeneration in One Eye – If you already have macular degeneration in one eye, you are more likely to develop it in the other.
Some risk factors may not be under your control, but others you can help prevent. You can protect your eye health and prevent macular degeneration from occurring with help from us at Marano Eye Care. At Marano Eye Care, we will help you learn more about macular degeneration in NJ and how you can prevent and lower your chances of developing this condition.
If you are already experiencing a change in vision or other symptoms related to macular degeneration, our team of eye doctors can help by performing a complete eye exam and diagnostic tests to determine the progression of the disease in your eye(s). Tests may include a visual acuity test, fundus photography test, dilated eye exam and optical coherence tomography. If you are experiencing vision loss due to macular degeneration, please contact us today to schedule an appointment and restore your vision.