Preventing and Treating Macular Degeneration in the Elderly
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) tops the list as one of the top three conditions that cause vision loss in people over the age of 60. AMD is most likely to affect seniors due to the slow changes to vision as we age.
Learn more about how to best prevent and treat macular degeneration in the elderly during this time.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Imagine that the clear vision you need to be able to identify objects is slowly lost. Fine details become blurry and you may not be able to identify what is right in front of you. This is what your parent or senior loved one could be experiencing with age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
In AMD, the retina and the macula (part of the retina), are made from millions of light-sensing cells. The job of these cells is to provide the brain with a clear, sharp vision. If the macula starts to breakdown, however, the eye will start to lose its vision.
When looking straight at someone or something, the eye may be able to see everything there but it will be blurry, dark or distorted.
The Symptoms of Macular Degeneration in the Elderly
In the early stages of AMD, there are no obvious symptoms. The deterioration of the macula quietly happens with age. The best way to detect AMD is through a dilated eye exam with an eye care professional.
During the eye exam, an eye care professional may be looking for a substance called drusen. Drusen is a yellow protein that is found under the retina. Medium-sized drusen are smaller than a human hair and typically won’t affect your vision. In intermediate and late AMD, however, there may be larger-sized drusen as well as changes to the color of the retina.
A loss of vision may begin to occur in intermediate AMD, and in late AMD, the vision loss will be noticeable from the damage to the macula.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmologists, you can have dry or wet AMD vision loss, caused by either the drusen protein or the leaking of blood vessels under the retina.
Ways to Prevent Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Currently, there is no known cause of AMD, but keeping these risk factors in mind can assist you in trying to lower the chance of developing the disease in yourself, a parent or senior loved one.
The Bright Focus Foundation lists these factors as putting someone at a higher risk for AMD:
- A family member with AMD
- Female (possibly related to females living longer)
- Of Caucasian descent with light-colored eyes (possibly related to less pigment in the eyes to protect from UV damage)
- Over the age of 75
If you or a loved one have any of the above risk factors, consider using these healthy habits to keep the eyes strong:
- Don’t smoke, or talk to a doctor about quitting soon.
- Eat plenty of green leafy vegetables, yellow and orange fruit, fish and whole grains.
- Exercise regularly.
- Get the eyes checked yearly.
- Keep weight at a healthy level.
- Keep blood pressure at a normal level.
- Wear a hat and sunglasses while in the sun.
Ways to Treat Macular Degeneration in the Elderly
There are no treatments for the early stages of AMD but the National Eye Institute states that most eye care professionals will note and monitor the development of the drusen protein.
If you or a loved one’s vision is starting to be affected, there are various injections or nutritional supplements that may be recommended.
The American Academy of Opthalmology states that a large study has found that taking these minerals or vitamins may also slow the development of dry AMD:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
Remember to talk to an eye care professional before starting any new nutritional supplements.
Wet AMD has also been treated successfully with eye injections and laser surgery. Most forms of treatment for AMD are used to slow the loss of vision.
What has your experience with macular degeneration been like? What suggestions do you have for helping a senior loved one who is struggling with macular degeneration? We would like to hear your stories and tips in the comments below.
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