Macular Degeneration Can Be Caught Early

Macular Degeneration Can Be Caught Early

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Shelley Osterloh ReportingExcept for needing glasses, most of us take our vision pretty much for granted. But one disease of the eye that can affect almost all aspects of your life.

Macular Degeneration affects nearly two million people over the age of 65 in this country alone. According to Doctor Bradley Katz at the U's Moran Eye Center, it's easiest understood by using a camera as an analogy for your eye.

Bradley J. Katz, M.D., Ph.D., Moran Eye Center: “But instead of having film in your camera, you have a retina. And the very center part of the retina is called the macula, and that’s the part of retina we use for reading, for driving, for recognizing people’s faces. And in some people as they get older, that part of the retina degenerates and that’s why we call it macular degeneration.”

It can start out as a very subtle distortion and progress to a loss of sight in the center of the eye. As far as a cause, no one really knows.

Bradley J. Katz, M.D., Ph.D.: “It’s definitely related to age. This is not a disease you ever see in children or in young people. And the incidence of this disease goes up quickly as people age.”

While the cause isn't known, there are some lifestyle changes that can decrease the risk, like eating lots of fruits and vegetables.

Bradley J. Katz, M.D., Ph.D.: “Because we know there are nutrients that our body cannot produce that are necessary for healthy functioning of the macula that can only be found in fruits and vegetables.”

While Dr. Katz urges anyone with a family history of the disease to get an eye exam in their 40's and certainly by age 50, because it can be detected at an early stage.

Bradley J. Katz, M.D., Ph.D.: “Probably the earliest thing people might notice is if they look at a straight edge, like a door jam or a window sill, or some other very well demarcated sharp line, they might notice a little wave or a distortion in the line. And that can be an early symptom of the disease.”

Promising research is now being conducted at Moran and other eye centers around the country. Right now there's early indication that some antioxidant vitamin supplements and zinc might help slow the progression. If you have questions about what you should do, check with your doctor.

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