Macular Degeneration: an introduction

Age Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD) is the most common cause of blindness in Canada, affecting more than one million Canadians. That is more people than breast cancer, prostate cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s combined! As you may have guessed from the name, it primarily affects people over the age of 50. In its earliest stages ARMD has no symptoms and can only be detected during a regular eye examination. In the later stages of ARMD, central vision is distorted or completely lost, leaving a central blindspot.

This is what things can look like in advanced ARMD.

So what if you’re under 50? What then? Doesn’t that mean that you have nothing to worry about? Well, sort of. ARMD doesn’t typically strike people when they’re young in the same way that skin cancer doesn’t typically affect younger people. That means that someone who is 30 is almost definitely not going to show any signs of ARMD. However, just like you can wear sunscreen to decrease your risk of skin cancer there are things that you can do to decrease your risk of getting ARMD. And just like sun protection, the younger you protect your eyes, the lower your risk.

Alright, so maybe now I’ve convinced you that prevention and detection are important. What can you do? Lifestyle plays a huge role in ARMD. People who smoke have a greatly increased risk of developing ARMD. Poor eating habits and a lack of cardiovascular activity also increase your risk. Exposure to UV light is also harmful and increases your risk. There also factors that you cannot change such as age, gender, family history and ethnicity that increase your risk. As you age your risk increases, women are more commonly affected than men, people with lighter coloured eyes or skin colours have a greater risk and if someone in your family has ARMD you have a higher risk (good ol’ genetics). All that said, if you wear sunglasses, avoid smoking or second hand smoke and live a healthy lifestyle you can greatly decrease your risk of developing ARMD. A healthy diet is often a challenge even for the most health concious of people and there are specific eye vitamins on the market both for people with risk factors for ARMD and for people who currently have ARMD. Speak with your optometrist about which of those vitamins is right for you.

Since there are no symptoms even if you’re doing everything right it’s very important to see your optometrist regularly. Even though ARMD cannot be cured, early intervention and detection can help slow down how rapidly the disease progresses and keep your vision from worsening. Technology such as an OCT scan, which is offered at our clinic, can help to detect ARMD at its earliest stages.If you have any questions feel free to call or email us. You can also reach us on Twitter, FacebookGoogle + or via our website. For more information feel free to explore these other sites.

CNIB - Macular Degeneration

Doctors of Optometry Canada - Macular Degeneration