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What you need to know about age-related macular degeneration

HARTFORD — More than 11 million Americans are currently living with age-related macular degeneration, but by 2050 it is estimated that number will double. AMD is the leading cause of vision loss for adults over the age of 50. Recent research has found that certain dietary supplements may reduce the likeliness of contracting AMD, and slow the progression of AMD in patients who have already experienced vision loss.

Age-related macular degeneration damages the macula, a part of the back of the eye that allows us to see objects straight ahead. AMD can vary in how quickly it progresses and affects vision loss, but it eventually causes blurring and blank spots. AMD does not result in complete blindness, but it will make daily activities like reading, driving, or anything that requires close attention very difficult, if not impossible.

The Age-Related Eye Disease Study, sponsored by the National Eye Institute, found that people who supplemented their diets with high levels of vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, zinc and copper reduced their risk of progression to advanced AMD by 25 percent after 5 years. A follow up study also found that a diet rich with omega-3 fatty acids can also help protect from degeneration.

“While these supplements are not a miracle cure for age-related macular degeneration, they can help maintain vision for those at risk of developing AMD” said Dr. Robert Block, MD, of Acuity Eye Physicians & Surgeons. “Your mother was right, you need to be eating your vegetables to protect your vision.”

Eating foods rich in these nutrients may also slow the progression of AMD. Vitamin C can be found in dark leafy greens, carrots, bell peppers, avocados, and oranges; sunflower seeds, almonds, and peanuts have high amounts of vitamin E; lean beef and some breakfast cereals have lots of zinc; and salmon, trout, and other fish are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

People with a family history of AMD have a higher risk of contracting the disease. Smoking also significantly increases the odds of vision loss from AMD. If you believe you may be at risk for age-related macular degeneration, schedule an appointment with the Acuity Eye Physicians & Surgeons, and continue with regular checkups to protect your eyes’ health and vision.