Age-related macular degeneration, AMD, is an eye disease caused by degeneration, damage or deterioration of the macula. The macula is a yellowish layer of light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye, in the center of the retina. This area provides the visual acuity that allows the eye to perceive fine and small details. When the macula does not function properly, the areas in the center of the visual field begin to lose sharpness. This area is the one with the best resolution, which allows reading, seeing colors and details, hence the importance of this area for an adequate vision without affecting the quality of life.
It is a disease with silent onset, because only a thinning of the macula occurs, as a sign of premature aging and this gives very few symptoms, which are sometimes confused with the need to change lenses, but the surprise is that this does not solve the problem. The symptoms get worse, distortion appears, loss of balance of the lines or even deformation of vision.
30,000 new cases each year
The disease is linked to aging. It affects people over 50 years of age and, especially, people over 65 (it is the main cause of low vision above this age). In Spain, more than 10% of the population over the age of 65 is affected by the disease, of which about 30,000 new cases are registered each year. Due to the increase in life expectancy, it is expected that by 2020 up to 7.5 million people over the age of 65 will suffer from AMD worldwide.
The main risk factors are chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, genetics (having cases of the disease in the family), a sedentary lifestyle or being a smoker.
Prevention is recommended over treatment of the disease in advanced stages. A healthy diet, rich in natural antioxidants and omega 3 products, not smoking, having regular eye check-ups after the age of 50 and wearing SUNGLASSES are the best preventive measures against age-related macular degeneration.
We share this interesting video of a campaign for the prevention of blindness and low vision by Niznikova sunglasses, which invites you to think about…
Is physical activity related to vision?
Physical activity is very important for a healthy life in both children and adults, so I would like to draw attention to something we have been observing in our optometry office.
In the case of children, physical activity is not only important for their psycho-motor development, but also for their social development.
Most of the sports practiced in childhood are team sports that require reflexes and precision, therefore, if there is a visual impairment in a child, he/she rejects physical activity since his/her “clumsiness in sports” means social non-acceptance.
In the case of adults, especially in those who have never had vision problems, the following symptoms are observed, in addition to the most well-known ones:
- Decrease in reading hours
- Refusal to drive, mainly long trips or night driving.
- A decrease in their physical activity is observed, many confess that they “feel clumsy” and are afraid of falling or injury.
For all these reasons, it is very important to carry out visual check-ups and correct refractive defects (to be well graduated) in order to achieve a full and healthy life. We must also remember that glasses are not the only solution, everyone can choose the one that best suits their lifestyle:
- Contact lenses
- Standard prescription glasses
- Prescription glasses for sports (basketball, soccer, swimming, mountaineering,…)
Nutrition and vision
We all know that our diet is essential to keep our body healthy, we in the cabinet always recommend foods rich in vitamin A or retinol as it is one of the fundamental vitamins for the visual process in the retina. Some of these foods, to include in the diet are:
But in addition, for years, several studies have shown that a hormone secreted by our body at night (mainly), melatonin, has important functions for:
Regulate sleep. There are already drugs and herbal products containing melatonin used to mitigate insomnia.
Boost the immune system
Act as an antioxidant (anti-aging). It acts at the cellular level
It is on this last point that we want to emphasize, since this anti-oxidant effect is being the source of clinical studies in the USA and Europe for the prevention, control and treatment of ocular degenerative diseases such as AMD (age-related macular degeneration) or retinitis pigmentosa. In the retina, at the ganglion cell level, melatonin is naturally present, as the retina is one of the main indicators, depending on the lighting conditions, for the generation of this hormone.
We also know that the processes associated with vision that occur in the retina are deeply oxidative, generate many wastes that can lead to diseases or aggravate existing ones, especially degenerative ones (which are caused by these oxidative processes) and it is being discovered that melatonin balances these oxidative processes thanks to its anti-oxidant properties. It is also known that melatonin levels decrease with age but are present in other animals and in many vegetables. For all these reasons, here is a list of foods rich in melatonin so that you do not forget to include them in your diet:
- Dried fruits (nuts)
- Apples, cherries and bananas
- Oat, wheat and rice seeds
- Ginger root
Although melatonin is not toxic, we recommend including products rich in it in our diet, as well as those rich in vitamin A, however if you want to use it as a food supplement, it is advisable to consult a medical nutritionist to avoid generating other imbalances in our body.