There are certain things we all expect to happen as we get older: more aches and pains, hearing loss, and poor vision.

In some cases, though, that vision loss is more severe due to more specific conditions. Macular degeneration, in particular, is the leading cause of blindness in Americans over age 60.

If you’ve been diagnosed with macular degeneration, it’s scary to think about the unknown path ahead. Let us give you peace of mind in the form of a peek into your next steps.

How Macular Degeneration Progresses

Macular degeneration is a progressive condition. This means that it gets worse over time. If you don’t know what’s happening, it can be scary when the symptoms start to appear.

When a doctor diagnoses macular degeneration, they often specify which stage the disease is in. Here’s a look at what these stages mean and what you can expect as your condition progresses.

Early Stage

When macular degeneration first begins, it doesn’t cause any symptoms. The only way to detect the disease in this stage is for your eye doctor to notice it during a routine eye exam.

As you may know, macular degeneration happens when the center of your retina starts to break down. During that process, deposits called drusen will fall below your retina.

Small or medium amounts of drusen are often the only sign of early macular degeneration.

Intermediate Stage

As macular degeneration enters the middle intermediate stage, you will develop more drusen deposits. Your eye doctor may also notice changes in the color of your retina.

Some attentive patients notice blurring in the center of their vision during this stage. However, the symptoms are often subtle enough at this point that patients don’t notice.

Late Stage

If you’re seeing more noticeable blurring in the center of your vision, your macular degeneration is likely in the late stage. As the condition progresses, that blurriness will extend outward. While this happens, the center of your vision will darken.

Treatments for Macular Degeneration

While medical science is advancing every day, there is currently no reliable treatment for macular degeneration.

That doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything you can do about it, though. There are certain lifestyle choices that can accelerate macular degeneration. By changing your health habits, you can keep macular degeneration as slow as possible.

1. Quit Smoking

Smoking has a negative impact on so many aspects of your health, and that includes your eyes.

People who smoke are four times more likely to develop macular degeneration than non-smokers. Researchers believe that this is because smoking sends damaging chemicals into your eyes.

It may also be a blood circulation problem. Your blood is the highway your body uses to send oxygen and nutrients to all your cells. This includes the cells in your eyes.

Nicotine leads to poor circulation, which means your eyes aren’t getting what they need to function and heal at their best. The result is often faster progression for your macular degeneration.

2. Doctor Your Diet

Diet is another one of those choices that affects your health in countless ways.

When it comes to macular degeneration, the key problem is unhealthy fat. Vegetable fats, polyunsaturated fats, and monounsaturated fats are the worst culprits.

On the other hand, that doesn’t mean that less fat is always better. Healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids have the opposite effect and give your eye health a boost.

To key to a macular degeneration-friendly diet is sticking to whole foods instead of processed foods and look for the right types of fats.

3. Rock Your Sunglasses

Dermatologists have been telling us for decades about how sun exposure leads to skin cancer. As it turns out, sunny days aren’t great for your eyes, either.

Too much ultraviolet light can damage your retina and accelerate macular degeneration. You can keep the damage at bay by making your sunglasses a daily accessory. Make sure they offer both UVA and UVB protection.

It isn’t just natural light that causes a problem. Spending too much time under fluorescent lights can have a similar effect. Try to keep your time in fluorescent lighting to a minimum.

4. Give the Computer a Rest

Screens are so common in our modern lives that they’re practically extra limbs. Unfortunately, those new limbs can damage your eyes.

Research has found a potential link between the blue light that electronics emit and more severe macular degeneration. This is a problem with computers, smartphones, tablets, and televisions alike.

Keep your screen time to a minimum to protect your vision. Of course, some of our jobs require us to be in front of screens for eight hours every day. If this is the case, consider specialized glasses that block blue light.

5. Chat About Medication Swaps

Common sense tells us that smoking, unhealthy foods, and excessive screentime aren’t good for our health. However, trying to do right by your health by keeping up with certain medications can also worsen your macular degeneration.

This isn’t to say that you should stop taking all your medications to protect your eyesight. Your doctor needs to supervise any medication changes.

We suggest writing down a list of the medications you take. Ask your eye doctor if any of those medications could accelerate your macular degeneration.

If you get a “yes,” visit the doctor who has prescribed that medication for you. Tell them your concerns and ask if there are any alternative medications that could meet your needs without impairing your eyes.

Protecting Your Peepers

For patients all over the world, macular degeneration can be a distressing diagnosis. It’s scary to know that you have a progressive condition affecting your vision.

As you can see from the tips insights above, hope is not lost. You can take charge of your health and keep your vision strong for as long as possible with some simple lifestyle changes.

The earlier you get diagnosed with macular degeneration, the sooner you can take steps to keep it at bay. If you would like more information or discuss other ways you can protect your eyes, schedule an appointment with our eye doctors.