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Macular Degeneration Risk Factors | Long Island Eye Doctor

Suchi Matalia, OD

Macular degeneration is one of the leading causes of vision loss in Americans 65 years or older.  The disease affects the macula, which is located on the retina (the back part of the eye).  The macula is responsible for your fine and crisp vision.  It’s important to get routine eye exams to see if you have any signs of early macular degeneration.  The following are some risk factors that increase your chances of macular degeneration.

Aging – This is the largest risk factor, and unfortunately something you cannot control.  The older you are, the increased chances of getting macular degeneration.

Family History – This is another risk factor you cannot control.  Macular degeneration tends to run in families, but it’s important to remember, it doesn’t always run in families.  Sometimes the genes are passed down from relatives.

Smoking – This is one risk factor that you can definitely control and avoid!  If you smoke..STOP!  Studies show smoking may increase your risk of developing macular degeneration by two times.  Not only does smoking affect the macula of your eyes, but also increases your chances of early cataracts.  Additionally, smoking affects other aspects of your body health as well.

Obesity –  People who have an increased intake in foods high in fats and cholesterol show more chances of developing macular degeneration.  In fact, being overweight increases your chances of the more serious form of macular degeneration damage, such as geographic atrophy and neovascularization.

Sun Exposure – UV light damages different structures of your eye, include the retinal tissues.  The macula is more prone to UV damage because the tissue is thinner compared to rest of the retina.  Don’t forget to wear UV protected, polarized sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun!

High Blood Pressure – The retina (and the rest of the eye) has lots of blood vessels.  When hypertension affects your body, the blood vessels narrow and less blood flows throughout the retina, and as a result increases your chances of developing macular degeneration.

Low nutrition – Patients with low levels of vitamins and mineral, such as zinc, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E have a high risk of vision loss due to macular degeneration.  It’s important to keep green leafy vegetables, such as kale and spinach, in your regular diet to help your overall eye health.  Your doctor may advise you to start taking eye vitamins rich in lutein and zeaxanthin to protect your macula.

Being female – This is obviously another risk factor you cannot control.  There’s more research being performed to investigate why females are at higher risk.  Studies show there may be a connection with the onset of menopause – those who experience menopause sooner also show to develop macular degeneration early.

Being Caucasian – The disease seems to be less prominent in other races.  This could be because Caucasians are lighter skinned, and have less pigment overall, so are more prone to degeneration and damage.  This is also why those with lighter eyes are at increased risk compared to those with darker eyes.




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