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During Macular Degeneration Awareness Month: Keep an Eye on Good Health Habits to Safeguard Your Sight

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of visual impairment and blindness in older adults. It usually develops gradually and destroys one's sharp, central vision. Once vision is affected, it is can become difficult to see objects clearly and perform common tasks such as reading and driving.

Once people turn 60, the risk of developing AMD increases, and Macular Degeneration Awareness Month in February is a good time to think about when you had your last eye exam. Although there's no cure for macular degeneration, early diagnosis and treatment could slow or even stop the progression of the disease, according to Mark Fleckner, MD, an ophthalmologist specializing in diseases of the retina in Garden City.

Risk Factors for Macular Degeneration

A family history of AMD is another risk factor. Scientists at the National Eye Institute are conducting research to zero in on genes associated with age-related macular degeneration. Their latest findings, published this month in the journal Nature Genetics, provide a more expanded and in-depth picture of the genetic underpinnings of AMD. Their research could eventually lead to new pathways for treatment development.

Additional risk factors for macular degeneration include cigarette smoking, obesity and hypertension, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Dr. Fleckner on Good Habits for Eye Health

In light of the risk factors, watching one's weight, not smoking, and following a healthy diet with lots of green, leafy vegetables is not only good for one's general health, but may also play a role in safeguarding one's sight, according to Dr. Fleckner. He says it's also a good idea to stay out of the sun or wear sunglasses with UV protection, which could protect against not only AMD, but other eye conditions, as well.

Patients often ask about dietary supplements to prevent or treat macular degeneration. Researchers at the National Eye Institute have conducted a significant amount of research and have found that certain combinations of vitamins and minerals may help delay the development of late-stage AMD in a limited number of patients. Always consult your physician before taking any new supplements, as they can sometimes cause side effects.

For people whose eyes are healthy, there is no evidence that these supplements can prevent age-related macular degeneration, and they are not recommended.

When to See an Ophthalmologist

The most common form of macular degeneration usually develops slowly with no obvious symptoms. But the severe form of the disease may cause sudden, noticeable vision loss or distorted vision. Individuals may experience blurred of fuzzy vision, or straight lines may appear to be wavy. Dr. Fleckner says anyone experiencing these symptoms should make an appointment to see an ophthalmologist right away.

Garden City / Fresh Meadows Opthalmologist Dr. Mark Fleckner Facebook YouTube interview with Fresh Meadows Opthalmologist Dr. Mark Fleckner

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