Around 11 million people have age-related macular degeneration, which is just one of the diseases that can damage your macula and potentially lead to blindness. Your macula is the part of your retina that provides your central vision. Oftentimes macular diseases don’t cause symptoms in their early stages, so two things are critical to protecting your eyesight — knowing your risk factors and having routine eye exams.
Here at Retina Specialists, our team of expert ophthalmologists provide comprehensive eye exams and screening for macular diseases at our offices in Dallas, DeSoto, Plano, Mesquite, and Waxahachie, Texas. We want to share details about common risk factors and what you can do to protect yourself.
Your retina is the part of the back of your eye where light focuses and is transmitted to your optic nerve that sends signals to your brain. The macula is the part of your retina that allows you to see right in front of you.
Some of the most common types of macular disease include:
- Age-related macular degeneration
- Diabetic retinopathy
- Macular holes
- Macular puckering
- Retinal vein occlusion
- Diabetic macular edema
While the symptoms vary slightly, in general, problems with your macula cause blurry vision, visual distortions, and reduced central and night vision.
Risk factors for macular diseases
While your genetics, family history, and age are some of the primary risk factors for macular disease, other issues contribute to your risk.
Smoking, for example, increases your chances of developing many macular diseases. Smoking not only accelerates the aging process but also affects your cardiovascular health and can contribute to vascular problems in your eyes.
Additionally, having a nutritionally-deficient diet or consuming too much sugar, salt, and fat can also contribute to macular diseases. This unhealthy diet also increases your likelihood of developing diabetes, which is another risk factor for many eye diseases, including macular edema and retinal vein occlusion.
When diabetes is uncontrolled over time, high blood sugar damages your blood vessels. In your eyes, this causes the blood vessels to leak blood and other fluid into your eyeball and promotes abnormal vessel growth. The result is retinal vein occlusion, swelling (edema), and scarring on your macula.
Having previous eye surgery or injury can also increase your risk of developing macular disease. Surgery and other trauma can affect your vitreous fluid — the gel that fills your eyeball. As your vitreous shrinks and changes shape, it can pull on your macula and cause puckering or even a macular hole.
Ways you can reduce your risk of developing macular disease
The best thing you can do to protect your eyesight is to have regular comprehensive eye exams. If you wear corrective lenses or are over the age of 65, you should have an eye exam every year. You should also have annual exams if you have diabetes or any other risk factors for macular disease or other eye diseases. Otherwise, we recommend having an eye exam at least every two years.
It would help if you also made healthy lifestyle choices. If you smoke or use tobacco products, give up the habit now. Eat a balanced diet, and if you have a condition like diabetes, work with your physician to get your blood sugar under control.
Also, while ultraviolet (UV) exposure isn’t directly linked to macular disease, wearing UV-blocking sunglasses protects your eyes from harmful rays that contribute to many other eye diseases.
If you’re due for an eye exam or are concerned about macular eye disease, give us a call or make an appointment online for expert eye care and treatments for macular disease.