When a physician or doctor asks you if you have a family history of health conditions like cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, or cancer, it’s not because they’re being nosy. It’s because genetics plays a role in your chances of developing many health conditions, including eye diseases like macular degeneration.
Macular degeneration is a progressive and chronic disease that gradually destroys central vision due to deterioration of the macula, which a small central portion of your retina made of millions of light-sensing cells. When the macula doesn’t function fully, your central vision appears blurry, darkened, or distorted. This can make activities like reading, cooking, and driving not only difficult, but dangerous given the situation.
The disease is commonly associated with aging, but macular degeneration has also been linked to genetics. If you have a family history of macular degeneration, you have a higher risk for developing it as well. Factors that increase your risk of developing macular degeneration include:
- Being over the age of 50
- Having a family history of macular degeneration
- Having cardiovascular disease
- Eating foods high in saturated fat
- Having high cholesterol levels
- Being Caucasian
Types & Treatments
Because the disease is so commonly associated with aging, it’s also known as age-related macular degeneration, or AMD. There are two forms of AMD: “dry,” which is the most common, and “wet.”
While eye vitamins can slow the progression of dry AMD, that is the only treatment that is known for dry macular degeneration. Wet AMD, while less common, can be treated with laser procedures. Genetic testing is now available to help identify those most likely to develop wet AMD.
Regardless of the type of AMD, there are lifestyle changes you can make to reduce the risk and progression of the disease including:
- Quit smoking
- Exercise regularly
- Control cholesterol
- Eat a balanced diet
- Take eye vitamins
- Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from the UV light from the sun
- Get yearly eye examinations
There are no early symptoms of AMD, which means it often goes undetected until vision loss begins to occur if you’re not having regular eye exams. Over time, blurry patches or dark spots begin to appear in your central vision, or objects may appear darker or distorted.
The key to treating any eye disease—genetic or not—is early diagnosis and treatment. Your eye doctor can detect the onset of macular degeneration, as well as other eye diseases such as glaucoma, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy. Don’t wait until you start experiencing vision problems to have a comprehensive eye examination.
Hardin Valley Eyecare & Optical has the experience and equipment necessary to diagnose and often treat eye diseases like macular degeneration, as well as many others, at our office in Knoxville. Our eye care professionals are dedicated to providing exceptional personal service to each person who walks through our door. Call us at (865) 246-1500 or contact us to schedule an appointment.