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Macular Degeneration

Concerned About Macular Degeneration? – Here Are 6 Tips to Lower your Risk

What Is Macular Degeneration?

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a deterioration of the macula, the key part of the retina responsible for highly detailed vision and central vision. There are two main types of macular degeneration: dry and wet.

Dry AMD occurs when small deposits in the macula called drusen gradually damage the light-sensitive retinal nerve cells, leading to vision loss.

In wet AMD, fragile new blood vessels grow under the macula. When these blood vessels leak blood or fluid, it damages the macula. Although both types of macular degeneration can result in vision loss, wet AMD is the more serious form of the disease as it results in faster and greater vision loss.

Who Is At High Risk for Macular Degeneration?

  • age 50+
  • a diet high in saturated fat
  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Family history of AMD
  • Cardiovascular disease

6 Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Macular Degeneration

The following have been shown to lower the risk of developing AMD:

Stop smoking

If you don’t smoke, don’t start, and if you smoke—consider quitting. Smokers are 4 times more at risk of developing AMD and typically develop the disease around 10 years earlier than non-smokers.

Wear Quality Sunglasses

UV rays from sunlight can put your eyes at risk. So make sure you choose high-quality 100% UVA & UVB filtering sunglasses to block the sun’s harmful UV rays. Consider getting polarized lenses, as they filter out reflected light rays more efficiently. That’s especially important if you spend time on the water, at the beach, in the snow or driving.

Check Your Blood Pressure

High blood pressure not only harms your heart, but restricts oxygenated blood from reaching your eyes. Have your blood pressure checked regularly. If you already have hypertension, consider using an at-home monitor to keep tabs on it.

Eat Healthy and Consider Supplements

Cut out saturated fat, which can raise your blood pressure. Eat fewer animal fats and replace butter with olive oil. Look for plant-based, high-protein alternatives to meat, and eat oily fish like sardines, mackerel and salmon.

Dark, leafy greens are terrific for your eyes. Kale and other greens are full of lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants that promote eye health. If you have dry AMD, ask your optometrist about antioxidant supplements that can slow AMD’s progression.

Know Your Family History

Up to 70% of AMD cases have a genetic component. People with a parent or sibling with AMD have a greater risk of developing this serious sight-threatening eye disease. If you have a family history of this disease, get your eyes frequent eye tested for AMD.

Get Your Eyes Checked Regularly

Everyone should have regular comprehensive eye exams, especially if you’re over 50, have a family history of AMD, hypertension or other risk factors.

An eye exam that screens for AMD typically includes:

  • Visual Acuity – tests your ability to read and see an eye chart from various distances
  • Pupil Dilation – the optometrist applies eye drops to dilate the pupil so they can examine the inside of your eyes
  • Digital Retina Image and/or OCT – full color 3D imaging of the macula to detect leakage from the vessels and measure retinal thickness. This can help the eye doctor diagnose wet AMD, even in the early phases.
  • Amsler Grid – The optometrist asks the patient how straight lines on a checkerboard grid appear. The answer “wavy” or “missing” could indicate the presence dry or wet AMD.

Your vision is your gateway to the world. Good vision lets you live an active and independent life, even in your advanced years. Regardless of your age, get your eyes checked regularly, and all the more frequently if you have a family history of AMD or other risk factors.

To schedule your eye exam with Dr. Chan, contact Foresight Eyecare in Calgary today.

FAQ

What percentage of the population has macular degeneration?

An estimated 8.7% of the global population has macular degeneration. This number is expected to increase from the current 196 million people affected to 288 million by 2040.

Do injections work for wet macular degeneration?

When AMD has progressed to the “wet” phase, anti-VEGF injections can preserve remaining vision by reducing fluid leakage and bleeding from the macular blood vessels.

Why Are Blue Eyes More Sensitive To Light?

Why Do Your Eyes Need Sun Protection?

Eyes of all colors need shielding from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. Exposure to UV light can contribute to the formation of short-term and long-term eye conditions such as corneal sunburn and macular degeneration.

That’s why it’s so important to choose high-quality Sunwear with 100% UV blocking lenses and to throw on a sun hat for an added layer of protection.

UV protection is important for individuals of all ages—especially children—who are more susceptible than adults to the sun’s harmful rays and tend to spend more time outdoors. It is estimated that up to 80% of a person’s lifetime exposure to UV rays happens before the age of 18.

Why are Blue Eyes More Sensitive to Light?

Lighter-colored eyes like blue, hazel, and green have less of a pigment called ‘melanin’ than brown eyes do.

Melanin helps protect the retina from UV damage and blue light, putting those with blue eyes at a higher risk of developing UV-related eye damage.

If you have blue eyes, you may have experienced this first-hand. Bright light may be uncomfortable or you may want to reach for your shades as soon as you leave the house on a sunny day.

That’s why optometrists urge blue-eyed patients to be particularly vigilant about UV protection, so as to mitigate their chances of developing eye disease and other complications.

How We Can Help

Whether you have blue eyes or not, sunglasses are an important part of keeping your eyes healthy for a lifetime.

At Foresight Eyecare, we’ll be happy to advise on the perfect high-quality and protective pair of sunglasses to suit your needs and personal style.

Foresight Eyecare, your Calgary eye doctor for eye exams and eye care

Alternatively, book an appointment online here CLICK FOR AN APPOINTMENT

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Should I wear sunglasses even when it’s not sunny outside?

Yes! You should wear your sunglasses whenever outdoors during the day, even on an overcast, winter day. UV light can pass through clouds and reflect off surfaces like car windows and pavement.

What type of sunglasses are the most suitable for blue eyes?

The most protective sunglasses are wraparound sunglasses that protect the eyes from every angle. You can also opt for photochromic lenses, which offer total UV protection but only become tinted when exposed to outdoor sunlight, and turn clear when you come indoors again. Your optometrist can help you choose the best lens and frame options for your needs and lifestyle.

Why Are Dilated Eye Exams So Important?

Foresight Eyecare Dilated Eye Exam near you in Calgary, Alberta

Having your eyes dilated during an eye exam may seem like a nuisance. But when you consider the benefits of a dilated eye exam, the temporary blurred vision and sensitivity to light that typically follow are definitely worth it.

What Are Dilated Eye Exams?

At some point during a comprehensive eye exam, your optometrist will shine a bright light into your eyes to examine the back of your eye, called the retina. The problem is that bright light causes the size of the pupil’s opening to constrict, which makes it hard for the optometrist to see a large portion of the retina.

That’s why eye doctors apply diagnostic eye drops in each eye to keep the pupils open. A dilated pupil allows for a much more accurate assessment of your eye’s structures, including the lens, blood vessels and tissues at the back of the eye called the retina, as well as the optic nerve and macula.

Dilating the eyes makes it easier for your optometrist to detect the following conditions and diseases:

It’s important to note that many of these conditions can develop without noticeable symptoms, until they cause vision loss at which point treatment may be more challenging, making dilated eye exams all the more crucial.

The Dilation Process

First, your eye doctor will apply eye drops to each eye to trigger dilation of the pupil. Your eyes should be fully dilated about 10-20 minutes later.

Your eyes will remain dilated for 4-6 hours, and during this time you may be sensitive to light. That’s because the larger pupil allows more light than usual to enter the eye. Many patients find it more comfortable to wear sunglasses until their eyes return to normal.

Reading and using a computer may be difficult with dilated eyes, and your vision may be blurred. Some patients report feeling a tightening sensation in their eyelids, or headaches.

Dilated eye exams are a crucial part of keeping your eyes healthy. To schedule your comprehensive eye exam, feel free to call our office or fill out an appointment request form on our website.

Foresight Eyecare, your Calgary eye doctor for eye exams and eye care

Alternatively, book an appointment online here CLICK FOR AN APPOINTMENT

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At what age should one have a dilated eye exam?

You should have your dilated eye exam no matter your age. Most eye doctors will dilate a new patient at their first exam regardless of age to get a baseline of their retinal health.

Will I be able to return to work after a dilated eye exam?

Everyone reacts differently, so it’s hard to tell. If your job requires you to focus on small print or detail, it may be challenging. Typing and writing may also be difficult with dilated pupils. To be on the safe side, book your appointment at the end of your work day, clear your schedule after your eye exam and only plan to do activities which aren’t visually demanding.

Does Obesity Impact Eye Health?

Nation-wide awareness about the vast dangers of obesity is at an all-time high, with TV shows like “The Biggest Loser” and health initiatives such as Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign shining a spotlight on the importance of fitness and good nutrition. However, despite the public’s knowledge of obesity’s effects on hypertension, stroke, and diabetes, many are not aware of how it damages eye health and vision.

Increasing evidence shows that people who are clinically obese have an elevated risk of developing serious eye diseases. It is widely known that expanding waistlines place people at a higher risk of getting diabetes, heart disease, and cancer — but researchers say the link between obesity and deteriorating vision is the “risk factor that no one talks about”. Professor Michael Belkin and Dr. Zohar Habot-Wilner, from the Goldschleger Eye Institute at the Sheba Medical Center, found a consistently strong correlation between obesity and the development of four major eye diseases that may cause blindness:

  • Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
  • Cataracts
  • Glaucoma
  • Diabetic retinopathy

The researchers said that although the evidence was out there suggesting a link between obesity and these conditions, their study emphasizes the optometric risks of obesity which can help motivate people to shed those extra pounds.

How Obesity Contributes to Eye Disease

A Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25 is considered overweight and above 30 is regarded as obese. A high BMI is tied to several chronic systemic health conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and stroke, among others. Recent research indicates that a handful of ocular diseases can now be added to that list.

Serious eye conditions such as diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration are more common in individuals with obesity, as well as floppy eyelid syndrome, retinal vein occlusions, thyroid-related eye diseases, and stroke-related vision loss.

The connection between obesity and these eye diseases is likely due to the increased risk of peripheral artery disease. This occurs when the tiny blood vessels bringing oxygen to parts of your body like the feet, kidneys, and eyes become compromised.

Your eyes are particularly prone to damage from obesity because the blood vessels in the eyes (called arterioles) are easily blocked, since they’re extremely thin and small — as thin as ½ the width of a human hair!

Most people are not aware that obesity may increase the rate of developing cataracts, too. Cataracts result when the focusing lens in the eye becomes cloudy and requires surgery to be replaced. In addition to age, cataract development is associated with obesity, poor nutrition, gout, diabetes and high blood sugar levels, though the exact cause isn’t clear.

A Healthy Lifestyle Can Reduce Your Risk of Ocular Disease

Knowing about the risk of vision loss may give those with a high BMI the extra motivational boost they need to lose weight. The good news is that a few lifestyle changes can reduce the associated risks.

An active lifestyle and a balanced, nutritious diet lower obesity and improve overall physical and eye health. Give your body a boost by incorporating important nutrients, such as vitamins C and E, zeaxanthin, omega 3, zinc, and lutein, many of which are found in green leafy and dark orange vegetables, as they have been shown to reduce the onset, progression, and severity of certain eye diseases.

We Can Help Keep Your Eyes Healthy in Calgary

While a healthy diet and regular exercise greatly increase your chances of living a disease-free long life, they alone are not enough to ensure long term healthy eyesight. Regular eye exams with Dr. Chan can help prevent or detect the onset of ocular disease, and maintain vision that is clear and comfortable.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding your vision or eye health, don’t hesitate to call Foresight Eyecare — we’re here for you.

How Smoking Impacts Vision

Smoking harms nearly every system in your body — including your eyes. 

Though we are all aware of the health effects associated with smoking, such as lung cancer, heart disease, and bad teeth, few know about the negative impact it can have on our vision. 

Smoking and Eye Disease 

Smoking can adversely impact your vision. Drs. Leong, Yung and Bui have observed that in the short term, the fumes can irritate the eye surface but over the long term internal structures within the eye degenerate. 

More specifically, tobacco addiction increases the risk of developing vision-robbing diseases such as macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy.  Below we’ll delve a little further into each of these conditions. 

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

Smokers run a high risk of rapid progression of AMD, a condition that severely impairs central vision, making it difficult or impossible to read, drive, recognize faces and colors, and leads to permanent vision loss in those aged 65 or older. Many people with AMD take vitamin supplements to counteract the degenerative changes.  Caution for smokers, who should not take beta-carotene supplements as this increases the risk of lung cancer in smokers (even if one stopped smoking for up to five years!)

Cataracts

Heavy smokers double their risk of developing cataracts, the leading cause of blindness. Cataracts are characterized by clouded, blurred or double vision, photophobia, and reduced night vision. However, cataract surgery is common and replaces the clouded lens with an artificial intraocular lens. 

Uveitis

Uveitis, the inflammation of the eye’s central layer, is an ocular disease that can lead to blindness. This condition damages important structures of the eye, notably the iris and retina, and can lead to cataracts, glaucoma and retinal detachment. Smokers have a 2.2 times higher risk of developing uveitis than non-smokers. 

Diabetic Retinopathy

Smoking raises one’s risk of developing diabetes by up to 40 percent thereby increasing the risk of retinopathy as well. Diabetes damages the blood vessels in the retina, causing them to leak blood into the eye, which — in severe cases — can deprive the retina of oxygen and result in blindness.

Dry Eyes

Dry eye syndrome is a common eye condition characterized by insufficient tears to keep your eye lubricated, or the tears are not composed of the correct balance of water, lipids, and mucous to maintain proper lubrication. Common symptoms include red, itchy, and gritty eyes.

Heavy smokers, and those exposed to secondhand smoke, not only double their risk of developing dry eye but also exacerbate an existing condition, especially among the contact lens wearers.

Secondhand Smoke and Eye Disease 

Secondhand smoke— which includes the smoke that emanates from the end of a cigarette as well as the smoke exhaled— is nearly as harmful to health and vision. Second-hand smoke places others’ eyesight in danger, particularly in young children and infants. Furthermore, studies indicate that women who smoke during pregnancy put the newborn baby at risk of being born with eye disease or visual impairment that could affect his or her ability to learn.

Stop Smoking to Save Your Vision

The good news is that giving up smoking can have an immediate effect on your health — and it’s never too late to quit! Once the habit is broken, your body will begin to repair itself to prevent vision loss. It can be challenging to quit, as it requires dedication, support, and advanced planning. Drs. Leong, Yung and Bui and the rest of the staff at Foresight Eyecare in NorthWest Calgary care about your health and will be happy to provide any assistance or resources to help you quit smoking and improve your eye health. Keep in mind that if you smoke, quitting smoking is the most important step you can take to protect your health and vision.