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Macular Degeneration: Preserving Eyesight

WebMD Magazine - Feature

Q: My mother, 63, recently learned she has early signs of age-related macular degeneration. What can she do to preserve her eyesight? Would certain nutritional supplements help?

A: Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) is the most common of all retinal disorders (damage to the eye's retina) and the leading cause of irreversible vision loss in older adults.

Recommended Related to Macular Degeneration

Understanding Macular Degeneration -- Diagnosis and Treatment

Your ophthalmologist or optometrist will inspect the macula, the portion of the retina that is responsible for your central vision, as part of a comprehensive eye exam. If macular degeneration is suspected, a special photographic procedure using dye, called fluorescein angiography or another test called OCT imaging may be performed. The tests detail the pattern of your eye's blood vessels and retinal anatomy and can detect a variety of abnormalities.  

Read the Understanding Macular Degeneration -- Diagnosis and Treatment article > >

Researchers have identified both hereditary and environmental factors. Although you can't change your genes, you can help preserve your delicate retina if you stop smoking and reduce harmful UV ray exposure from sunlight by wearing protective eyewear.

Most vision loss from ARMD is the result of leakage from abnormal blood vessels that grow underneath the retina. Prompt treatment is essential, so tell your mother to test her vision regularly with the Amsler Grid, which she can get from her eye doctor. Have her tape the grid to the bathroom mirror or the refrigerator door, and notify her eye doctor immediately if she notices any changes in how well she sees the lines on the grid.

As for supplements, certain amounts of vitamins C and E, beta carotene, zinc, and copper reduced participants' risk of developing advanced ARMD by 25%, according to the National Eye Institute's Age-Related Eye Disease Study.

William Lloyd, MD, WebMD Vision Expert

Reviewed on January 01, 2007

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