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Family History of Macular Degeneration? Take Steps to Protect Your Vision

Fig 1. View of person suffering from Macular degeneration (AMD or ARMD)- is a medical condition which may result in blurred or no vision in the centre of the visual field. Diagnosis in Ophthalmology. — Photo by Tunatura

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a sight-threatening eye condition that’s responsible for half of all cases of blindness and severe vision impairment in Australia.1 Although older age is a risk factor for AMD, macular degeneration is not considered a normal part of ageing. Another significant risk factor is having a family history of someone with AMD; studies show that having a sibling or a parent with AMD increases your risk of developing it yourself by 50%.1 Although there’s nothing you can do to stop ageing or change your family history, there are steps you can still take to protect your vision.

  1. Stop smoking.

Smoking is considered to be the single most significant modifiable risk factor for AMD. Research has identified that smokers are at a three to four times increased risk of developing AMD compared to non-smokers, and also tend to develop AMD five to ten years earlier than non-smokers.2

If you’re a smoker, take steps today to quit. There are a number of resources and support groups to help you on your journey. You may also wish to discuss with your GP about the best approach for you in putting those cigarettes away for good.

  1. Eat a balanced diet high in antioxidants and other nutrients.

Nutrition plays a big part in our overall health, not just for our eyes. When it comes to AMD, we know that the right nutrition can benefit the macula greatly. It’s able to both reduce your risk of developing AMD in the first place as well as slow its rate of progression if you do get it.3

So, what is considered a macula-healthy diet? Aim for a diet rich in the following nutrients:3

  • Lutein and zeaxanthin. These are potent antioxidants that have been proven by research to be protective for the macula. Good sources of lutein and zeaxanthin are found in dark green leafy vegetables such as kale and spinach. You can also get them from other vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, peas, and pumpkin, as well as eggs.
  • Omega-3. Omega-3 is known to be healthy for your eyes beyond just benefitting the macula. Popular sources of omega-3 are oily fish, including salmon and trout, but if fish is not your thing, flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts are also good sources of this important fatty acid. Additionally, plant-derived oils such as soybean and canola oils contain omega-3.
  • Vitamins E and C. Vitamins E and C are important nutrients for protecting the macula with strong antioxidant properties. Vitamin E is found in nuts such as almonds and peanuts, as well as in pumpkins, spinach, and collard greens. Citrus fruits are rich sources of vitamin C, as are tomatoes, broccoli, and cauliflower.
  • High levels of zinc contribute to reducing the risk of advanced AMD, potentially through moderating inflammatory responses in the eye.4 Oysters, lobster, dairy products, and poultry are good sources of zinc.

Dietary supplements are available to support the health of your macula. However, these supplements are not suitable for everyone, so talk to your Canberra optometrist about whether they will be of benefit to you first.

  1. Get enough physical exercise.

Physical activity has been associated with a reduced risk of AMD. In particular, an active lifestyle can lower your likelihood of late-stage AMD.5

Another good defence for your macula is attending for your routine eye tests so your optometrist can monitor your macula health over time. Our Canberra Optometrist is a phone call away.

Go to https://juniceyecare.com.au/ or call (02) 6152 8585 to book your appointment.

References

  1. MD Foundation Australia. Age-related macular degeneration. https://www.mdfoundation.com.au/. 2023. Available at: https://www.mdfoundation.com.au/about-macular-disease/age-related-macular-degeneration/AMD-overview/. (Accessed February 2023).
  2. Macular Disease Foundation Australia. Risk factors for AMD. https://www.mdfoundation.com.au/. 2023. Available at: https://www.mdfoundation.com.au/about-macular-disease/age-related-macular-degeneration/risk-factors-for-amd/. (Accessed February 2023).
  3. Macular Disease Foundation Australia. Eating for eye health. https://www.mdfoundation.com.au/. 2021. Available at: https://www.mdfoundation.com.au/about-macular-disease/age-related-macular-degeneration/nutrition-for-amd/. (Accessed February 2023).
  4. Smailhodzic D, van Asten F, Blom AM, Mohlin FC, den Hollander AI, van de Ven JPH, et al. Zinc Supplementation Inhibits Complement Activation in Age-Related Macular Degeneration. PLoS ONE. 2014;9(11): e112682.
  5. McGuinness M, Le J, Mitchell P, et al.Physical Activity and Age-related Macular Degeneration: A Systematic Literature Review and Meta-analysis. Am J Ophthalmology. 2017; 180:29-38.

Author: Juliet Menakaya, O.D MPH

CANBERRA OPTOMETRIST Juliet obtained her Doctor of Optometry degree from the University of Benin, Nigeria in 2006. She completed an internship programme before migrating to Australia, where she completed a master’s degree in public health at the University of Sydney in 2014. Following this, Juliet obtained a Master of Orthoptics from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) in 2017. Juliet has completed her competency in optometry examination with OCANZ (Optometry Council of Australia and New Zealand), and obtained her ophthalmic prescribing rights from ACO (Australian College Of Optometry Victoria). Juliet has worked in various positions, including retail Optometry, the Ophthalmology Department at Canberra Hospital, and more recently, at the John Curtin School of Medical Research (ANU). As a dedicated Canberra optometrist, Juliet is passionate about helping people with low vision, and binocular vision anomalies hence her interests in Low Vision Rehabilitation, Eccentric Viewing Training and Paediatric optometry.