Working in the healthcare profession for many years I often took eye health and care for granted. As Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) Awareness Month is upon us, I want to take the time to share some very personal experiences my family has encountered.
My mother-in-law has AMD. This disease has had a significant and life-altering impact on her and her family. About 15 years ago, she started having vision problems, it was becoming increasingly more difficult for her to see. At the beginning, we thought she may just need a new eyeglasses prescription. After seeing her ophthalmologist, she was diagnosed with AMD. This was quite a shock, none of us had even heard of this disease and had no idea what to expect. You would think being a nurse I would have had a clue– I didn’t.
It’s important to our family to spread awareness about Age-Related Macular Degeneration and the risk factors for this disease. AMD is an eye condition that can cause vision loss, especially in people over 55 years old. This vision loss occurs in the part of the eye that lets us see objects clearly/sharply known as our central vision– the macula. As the disease progresses, complete vision loss can occur.
AMD has many risk factors; there are non-modifiable and modifiable. What are those non-modifiable risks, the ones we have no control over? There’s age (shucks, we can’t change that at all), family history, light skin and eyes and being female. Since we can’t change who we are and who we’re related to what risk factors do we have some control over? AMD modifiable risk factors include smoking, poor diet, low macular pigment and a high body mass index (BMI).
We’ve known for a long time smoking causes numerous health risk, eye disease was one I had never thought of. When it comes to eating healthier and decreasing our BMI there are many things we can do. Eating a well-balanced diet and exercising are things most of us can improve upon.
“The dietary carotenoids zeaxanthin and lutein protect the most important retinal real estate of the eye–-the macula–which allows us to see detail. It is therefore critical to maintain the quality and health of this area of retinal tissue in a modern society that depends upon using computer screens and driving automobiles, safely.” – Dr. Stuart Richer, OD, PhD
78% of the US has less than optical macular pigment. This is shocking, especially knowing that many of us don’t know much about this and how we can mitigate one of the leading causes of Age-Related Macular Degeneration. Macular pigmentation is comprised of zeaxanthin and lutein, nutrients which are found in the center of the macula at a 2:1 ratio.
My lifestyle being very busy, I tend to eat on the go and I’m always in a hurry. I take efforts to ensure my kids eat healthy, but when it comes to my husband and I, we will often cut corners and eat rushed or food that isn’t optimal for our health. Knowing we don’t always eat the best, I have a strong feeling my husband and I aren’t getting enough zeaxanthin and lutein in our diet alone (from foods like leafy greens and fruits).
“Lutein and zeaxanthin act as ‘internal sunglasses’, providing protection against damaging light”. – Dr. Stuart Richer, OD, PhD
Since most of us can’t get the amounts of these nutrients needed to improve our macular health, many people try zeaxanthin and lutein supplements.
In my mother-in-law’s case, she initially started having trouble with her eyesight, and ultimately she lost the ability to drive. Her AMD got so bad that she is legally blind in her right eye and is almost now completely blind in her left eye. This has significantly affected her quality of life and independence.
While we can’t change our genetics and family history there are things we can do. Being aware that there are risk factors, we can make lifestyle changes and alter our diets. Had we known there were ways to help improve my mother-in-law’s macular health years ago, we surely would have been more proactive in getting her the nutrients she needed.
Have you heard of Age-Related Macular Degeneration? Do you know of anyone that suffers from this severe eye condition?
This post is sponsored by EyePromise, please remember I only share things I do use, would use or feel my readers can benefit from. All opinions are my own.