American Academy of Ophthalmology provides tips for saving seniors’ sight from age-related macular degeneration
SAN FRANCISCO – Jan. 19, 2016 – Seniors are at heightened risk for age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness among older Americans. The disease damages central vision, limiting a person’s ability to read and recognize faces. Approximately 2.1 million Americans had AMD as of 2010. This number is expected to double to more than 5.4 million by 2050.i Meanwhile, fewer people are aware of the disease compared to other eye diseases such as cataracts and glaucoma.ii
To help raise awareness of AMD as Valentine’s Day approaches next month, the American Academy of Ophthalmology is reminding seniors that their eyes need love, too. There are steps they can take to take better care of their eyes and protect themselves from AMD-related blindness.
Here are five eye-loving tips from the Academy and the facts behind the advice:
- Get regular comprehensive medical eye exams. AMD often has no early warning signs, so getting regular comprehensive eye exams from an ophthalmologist – a physician that specializes in the medical and surgical treatment of eye diseases and conditions – is critical to diagnosing and treating AMD in its early stages. The Academy recommends that people over age 65 get an exam every one to two years, even if they have no signs or symptoms of eye problems.
- Quit smoking. Numerous studies have shown smoking to increase risk of developing AMD and the speed at which it progresses. If you smoke, you are twice as likely to develop macular degeneration compared with a nonsmoker.iii
- Know your family’s eye health history. If you have a close relative with AMD, you have a 50 percent chance of developing the condition. Before you go in for your next eye exam, speak with your family about their eye health history. Sharing this information with your ophthalmologist may prompt him or her to recommend more frequent eye exams. The earlier AMD is caught, the better chances you may have of saving your vision.
- Eat a diet rich in omega-3s and low in cholesterol and saturated fat. A number of studies have shown that people who had a reduced risk of AMD had diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish. In one study of patients who were at moderate risk for AMD progression, those who reported the highest omega-3 intake (not in the form of a supplement) were 30 percent less likely to develop advanced AMD after 12 years. In another study, an increased risk of AMD was found in individuals who had a higher intake of saturated fats and cholesterol and in those with a higher body mass index.iv
“There is still a worrying lack of awareness when it comes to AMD, despite it being the number one cause of blindness in seniors,” said Rahul N. Khurana, M.D., a clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “Older Americans who are unaware of the disease may be putting themselves at risk by not taking early steps to care for their vision. The good news is that they protect their sight from AMD-related blindness by showing their eyes some TLC with regular eye exams and lifestyle changes.”
Seniors concerned about their risk of AMD may qualify for EyeCare America, a public service program of the American Academy of Ophthalmology that offers eye exams and care at no out-of-pocket cost for eligible seniors age 65 and older. Thousands of Academy members nationwide volunteer their time to serve their communities through EyeCare America. Visit www.eyecareamerica.org to see if you are eligible.
Learn more about age-related macular degeneration on the Academy’s EyeSmart AMD pages.
About the American Academy of Ophthalmology
The American Academy of Ophthalmology is the world’s largest association of eye physicians and surgeons. A global community of 32,000 medical doctors, we protect sight and empower lives by setting the standards for ophthalmic education and advocating for our patients and the public. We innovate to advance our profession and to ensure the delivery of the highest-quality eye care. Our EyeSmart® program provides the public with the most trusted information about eye health. For more information, visit www.aao.org.
About EyeCare America
Established in 1985, EyeCare America is a public service program of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. It is committed to the preservation of sight, accomplishing its mission through public service and education. EyeCare America provides year-round eye care services to medically underserved seniors and those at increased risk for eye disease. More than 90 percent of the care made available is provided at no out-of-pocket cost to the patients. EyeCare America is co-sponsored by the Knights Templar Eye Foundation Inc., with additional support provided by Alcon, Genentech and Regeneron. More information can be found at www.eyecareamerica.org.