Who is at risk for vision loss from macular degeneration?

Dr. Kelly Traver

Macular degeneration is a condition in which the area of the retina involved in central vision, the macula, degenerates. Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in people over age 55. Too much direct sunlight can accelerate the process. The retina is fed by small blood vessels, so conditions that cause arterial damage, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, and diabetes, all increase the risk of this condition. A diet high in fruits and vegetables that supplies a lot of antioxidants appears to decrease the risk of macular degeneration as well.

Macular degeneration is an age-related vision problem and the leading cause of blindness in adults over age 60.

Today, findings show that macular degeneration affects about 12 million people in the United States. This is about one in four older adults. Worldwide, macular degeneration affects about 50 million adults.

Macular degeneration is the result of the breakdown or deterioration of the macula, the central part of the retina. In the eye, the macula works to control central vision. In fact, without the macula, you could not read a book, drive a car, recognize colors or see the intricate details on paintings.

With aging, the chances of macular degeneration increase. Also, people who smoke have a higher chance of getting macular degeneration as those who do not smoke. Many feel that long-term exposure to sunlight contributes to this condition. Heredity and nutrition are also thought to play a role.

Wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) may be treated with laser surgery, photodynamic therapy, and injections into the eye, although there is no cure for wet AMD. Dry macular degeneration has no effective treatment.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.