How To Protect Your Vision and Avoid Macular Degeneration

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While winter weather may be keeping you indoors this February, spring break is around the corner. And if you’re planning to go somewhere sunny, don’t forget to pack your sunglasses.

While you might look at a pair of shades as a prop for your vacation photos, they actually serve a much more important purpose: protecting your eyes from damaging UVA and UVB rays, which could lead to a serious vision disease known as macular degeneration.

Before you head out to enjoy the sun, here’s what you need to know.
Also known as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the disease is a leading cause of vision loss among people age 50 and older, according to the National Eye Institute. More than 10 million Americans are affected by the disease, making it more prevalent than cataracts and glaucoma combined, according to the American Macular Degeneration Foundation.

The condition causes the macula, a part of the back of the eye near the retina, to deteriorate. While it doesn’t impact peripheral vision, macular degeneration can affect how well a person sees what’s right in front of them — like a beautiful view of the beach on a tropical getaway.

“People with macular degeneration will experience a gradual loss of clarity, particularly when they’re looking at people’s faces or reading words on the TV. It causes a dark spot in the center of their vision,” said Samuel Pierce, OD, president of the American Optometric Association. “It’ll also cause distortion in the vision where if you look at window blinds, you’ll see waves.”

There are two types of macular degeneration: atrophic, also known as dry AMD, and neovascular, or wet AMD. Dry makes up around 85 to 90 percent of all AMD cases. It causes small yellow deposits called drusen to form under the macula, which eventually leads to central vision loss.

“Wet macular degeneration causes unstable blood vessels to grow in the layers of the retina and leak blood, lipids, and serum. Scar tissue then develops and kills the photo receptors, which then causes vision in that area to go away,” said Pierce.

The sun-related diseases people develop are not related to the vacation they had last week,” said Krauss. “They’re related to the vacation they had 40 years ago. Whether it causes macular degeneration, aging of the skin or cancer, sun exposure is a cumulative thing over a long period of time and needs to be limited.” Look for sunglasses that offer protection from both UVA and UVB rays, and be sure to wear them when you’re outdoors.

A portable vision test from the Kellogg Eye Center at the University of Michigan can help you check for signs of macular degeneration, whether you’re at home or lounging by a resort pool. Stare at the paper grid. If you notice that the lines get wavy or your vision becomes darker, make an appointment with your doctor to get it checked out.

Sources:

https://www.healthline.com/health-news/7-tips-for-macular-degeneration-to-know-before-you-go-on-vacation

https://www.eyekraftersnj.com/2019/03/19/top-5-tips-for-managing-eye-allergies-this-spring-2019

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