Age related Macular Degeneration or AMD is a major cause of central visual loss in the developed world affecting 10% of people older than 65 years and more than 25% of people older than 75 years.
We distinguish 2 types of AMD: it could either “Dry” degenerative or “wet” with the development of abnormal vessels in the retina. In both variants, the patient should be aware of his disease and follow up on his condition with his ophthalmologist to decide upon treatment and management.
At home there are many measures that the patient can take to prevent or slow the progression of the disease.
- Smoking is the main influential modifiable risk factor, smokers above age 40 are 2-4 times more likely to develop AMD. So, patients must refrain from smoking to prevent further visual loss.
- Many genes have been linked to AMD and siblings of an affected individual have a threefold to sixfold higher risk than those of the general population to develop the disease. Patients with family history should be aware of the risk and visit the ophthalmologist frequently.
- Nutrition and supplements: AMD patients are advised to consume green leafy vegetables and to eat fatty fish at least twice per week. These dietary modifications may not only delay the onset of AMD but they can also slow its progression.
- Patients with moderate or advanced AMD should be advised to use supplements (referred to as AREDS based supplements). These supplements slow the progression of AMD but do not prevent its development.
- Patients are advised to maintain a healthy lifestyle with frequent physical activity and proper control of blood pressure and body weight.
- Use of sunglasses protective against UVA and UVB light is advisable especially in patients who underwent cataract surgery previously.
- Self-monitoring methods at home: your physician might give you a grid (Amsler grid) to test your vision at home.
To summarize, AMD is the result of a complex multifactorial interaction between metabolic, functional, genetic, and environmental factors. A healthy lifestyle consisting of no smoking, a healthy diet, use of protective sunglasses and intake of supplements when prescribed can be helpful in preventing or slowing the progression of the disease. However, sometimes, even with all the measures taken and with the intake of supplements, AMD still can occur or progress. The best recommendation is that the patients should self-monitor frequently and undergo regular fundus examinations by a specialized ophthalmologist.
Dr. Wissam Charafeddin, Specialist Ophthalmologist at Barraquer, UAE.