Reducing Your Risk of Macular Degeneration
There are no established guidelines for preventing adult macular degeneration. However, the following lifestyle changes may help keep your eyes healthy and reduce your risk of developing adult macular degeneration. Ask your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk of developing macular degeneration.
Eat a Diet That Is Low in Saturated Fat and Cholesterol
A diet that is high in saturated fat and cholesterol can cause plaque, a fatty substance, to build up on the macular vessels, which can hamper blood flow in your eyes. Therefore, you should cut back on high-fat foods. Eat more lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, low-fat or nonfat dairy products, and lots of whole grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables. Avoid eating fatty meats, fried foods, and full-fat dairy products. Also avoid using lots of butter, high-fat sauces, cheese, and cream.
According to a study in the Archives of Ophthalmology , eating lots of fat-filled junk food may increase your risk of developing age-related macular degeneration. These foods often contain vegetable, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, and linoleic acid. They include margarine, chocolate, pies, cakes, cookies, potato chips, French fries, and other highly processed, store-bought junk foods.
Eat More Leafy Green and Yellow Vegetables
Two yellow pigments found in the macula, known as lutein and zeaxanthin, are thought to protect the macula from light damage and free radicals. Free radicals are harmful molecules that can damage cells in the body. They come from environmental sources (cigarette smoke, air pollutants, radiation, certain drugs, and toxins) and are also produced during normal body processes.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are found in dark green leafy and yellow vegetables. By eating large quantities of these vegetables, you may slow or prevent the progression of age-related macular degeneration.
|Foods High in Lutein||Foods High in Zeaxanthin|
Consider Vitamin and Zinc Supplements
According to a clinical trial published in the Archives of Ophthalmology , antioxidant vitamins and zinc may reduce the risk of vision loss caused by certain forms of adult macular degeneration. In the trial, a high-dose combination of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and zinc were given to a group of people with intermediate and advanced adult macular degeneration. In those with a high risk of developing macular degeneration, the administration of antioxidant vitamins and zinc reduced their risk by approximately 25%.
Talk to your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian about vitamin and mineral supplementation. Due to a possible link between beta-carotene and an increased risk of lung cancer in smokers, current and recent smokers should probably avoid beta-carotene.
Increase your Omega-3 Fatty Acid Intake
Another study published in the
Archives of Ophthalmology
shows a decreased risk of wet macular degeneration in those who consumed higher amounts of fish or other forms of
Protect Your Eyes from Ultraviolet (UV) Light and Blue Light
The primary source of UV light is sun. Other sources include video display terminals, fluorescent lightning, xenon, and high intensity mercury vapor lamps (used for night sports and in high crime areas). Sun and very bright lights can worsen macular degeneration. You should use sunglasses that protect against blue/violet and UV light. You should also use these sunglasses on overcast or hazy days, since you can still be exposed to a lot of UV light. UV protection is also available for clear lenses and doesn’t change the color of the glass.
Smoking can damage the eyes just like it causes damage to the rest of the body. Research suggests that people who smoke a pack or more of cigarettes per day, or smoke for a long time, have a high risk of developing macular degeneration.
Exercise contributes to overall good health. It helps improve circulation and may increase blood flow to the eyes.
Regular Eye Examinations
Schedule regular eye health examinations. Current guidelines from the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommend the following exam intervals:
Children (usually performed by a pediatrician):
- Newborn to three months
- Six months to one year
- Three years (approximately)
- Five years (approximately)
Adults (usually performed by an eye care professional):
- Ages 20 to 29—at least once
- Ages 30 to 39—at least twice
- Ages 40 to 64—every two to four years
- Ages 65 and older—every one to two years
Certain risk factors may dictate more frequent exams: history of eye injury, diabetes, family history, or being an African American or Hispanic over age 40. Consult your eye care professional for specific recommendations.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology recently announced that everyone should get a comprehensive eye examination, including dilation, at age 40. For more information, visit http://www.GetEyeSmart.org .
Control Other Diseases
American Macular Degeneration Foundation website. Available at: http://www.macular.org/ .
Macular Degeneration Foundation website. Available at: http://www.eyesight.org/ .
The relationship of dietary lipid intake and age-related macular degeneration in a case-control study: AREDS Report No 20. Arch Ophthalmol. 2007;125:671-679.
Last reviewed February 2009 by
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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