Factors that Contribute to Macular Degeneration for Seniors

Macular degeneration is a leading cause of blindness.

If you keep up with celebrity news you may have heard that in 2012, beloved Oscar-winning actress Dame Judi Dench revealed she was going blind.  In a powerfully moving interview with The Mirror, she shared that she had been diagnosed with macular degeneration. At the time, she was just 77years of age.

Now, at 81, she seems to be coping quite well. The disease affects both of her eyes, but so far hasn’t caused blindness. Ms. Dench has learned to work around her limitations. For example, she request bigger scripts — literally. The extra-large font on the scripts she uses during rehearsals for the films she’s in make it easier for her to read.

She also paints. Her artistic abilities have helped her learn how to look at life in a whole new way— something artists are accustomed to doing anyway.

Admittedly, she no longer uses the London Underground when she’s by herself, since her vision loss makes seeing in the dark especially difficult. Plus, she can’t buy tokens at the machines, which have small screens. But she gets by with the help of friends and family, who accompany her when she needs to use the Underground.

One such family member is her daughter, Finty Williams. Since Dench’s mother also had macular degeneration, and family history is one of the risk factors of the disease, there’s a chance that Finty may be affected, too. Ms. Dench knows her daughter will need to have her eyes tested “sooner rather than later”.

That brings us to the important question: who’s at risk for macular degeneration?

What are the Risk Factors for Macular Degeneration for Seniors?

According to the National Eye Institute (NEI), there are three main factors that play into your risk for contracting age-related macular degeneration (AMD):

  1. Smoking. This may the most important factor over which you have control. Studies show that if you smoke, you’re effectively doubling your risk of getting AMD.
  2. Race. Caucasians are more likely to get AMD than Hispanics or African-Americans.
  3. Family History. There are about 20 genes scientists know of that affect AMD. But they suspect there are many more, since they’ve only just begun studying the human genome.

The Macular Degeneration Partnership also cites the following risk factors for AMD. While you may not be able to change your genes or your race, for many of the following factors, you do have at least some control:

  1. High blood pressure
  2. Obesity
  3. High cholesterol
  4. Being female
  5. Having light skin or light eye color
  6. Sun exposure to the eye
  7. Sedentary lifestyle
  8. Diet high in saturated fats and processed foods, and low in antioxidants

You or a senior you know may suffer from vision loss. It could be AMD or something else entirely. Either way, just as Dame Judi Dench has discovered, there are ways to live with vision loss. It doesn’t have to mean the loss of independence.

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