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Reducing Your Risk of Macular Degeneration

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There are no established guidelines for preventing adult macular degeneration. However, the following lifestyle changes may help keep your eyes healthy and reduce your risk of developing adult macular degeneration. Ask your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk of developing macular degeneration.

A diet that is high in saturated fat and cholesterol can cause plaque, a fatty substance, to build up on the macular vessels, which can hamper blood flow in your eyes. Therefore, you should cut back on high-fat foods. Eat more lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, low-fat or nonfat dairy products, and lots of whole grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables. Avoid eating fatty meats, fried foods, and full-fat dairy products. Also avoid using lots of butter, high-fat sauces, cheese, and cream.

According to a study in the Archives of Ophthalmology , eating lots of fat-filled junk food may increase your risk of developing age-related macular degeneration. These foods often contain vegetable, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, and linoleic acid. They include margarine, chocolate, pies, cakes, cookies, potato chips, French fries, and other highly processed, store-bought junk foods.

Two yellow pigments found in the macula, known as lutein and zeaxanthin, are thought to protect the macula from light damage and free radicals. Free radicals are harmful molecules that can damage cells in the body. They come from environmental sources, such as cigarette smoke, air pollutants, radiation, certain drugs, and toxins. They are also produced during normal body processes.

Lutein and zeaxanthin are found in dark green leafy and yellow vegetables. By eating large quantities of these vegetables, you may slow or prevent the progression of age-related macular degeneration.

Foods High in LuteinFoods High in Zeaxanthin
  • Kale
  • Turnip greens
  • Collards
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Corn
  • Lettuce (raw cos or romaine)
  • Peas
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Green beans
  • Tangerines and tangerine juice
  • Oranges and orange juice
  • Okra
  • Celery
  • Tomatoes and tomato juice
  • Carrots
  • Papayas
  • Melons
  • Corn
  • Spinach
  • Collards
  • Oranges and orange juice
  • Lettuce (cos or romaine)
  • Tangerines
  • Peas
  • Green beans
  • Broccoli
  • Celery
  • Peaches
  • Carrots

Another study published in the Archives of Ophthalmology shows a decreased risk of wet macular degeneration in those who consumed higher amounts of fish or other forms of omega-3 fatty acids.

The primary source of UV light is sun. Other sources include video display terminals, fluorescent lightning, xenon, and high intensity mercury vapor lamps (used for night sports and in high crime areas). Sun and very bright lights can worsen macular degeneration. You should use sunglasses that protect against blue/violet and UV light. You should also use these sunglasses on overcast or hazy days, since you can still be exposed to a lot of UV light. UV protection is also available for clear lenses and doesn’t change the color of the glass.

Smoking can damage the eyes just like it causes damage to the rest of the body. Research suggests that people who smoke a pack or more of cigarettes per day, or smoke for a long time, have a high risk of developing macular degeneration. If you smoke, talk with your doctor about how you can quit.

Exercise contributes to overall good health. It helps improve circulation and may increase blood flow to the eyes.

Schedule regular eye health examinations.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology recently announced that everyone should get a comprehensive eye examination, including dilation, at age 40. For more information, visit http://www.GetEyeSmart.org .

Diseases like high cholesterol , high blood pressure , and diabetes can affect your vision. Work with your healthcare professional to control these diseases to minimize eye complications.

Revision Information

  • Adult macular degeneration. Macular Degeneration Foundation website. Available at: http://www.eyesight.org/Macular%5FDegeneration/Adult%5FMD/adult%5Fmd.html. Accessed July 15, 2013.

  • Age-related macular degeneration. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what. Updated May 23, 2013. Accessed July 15, 2013.

  • Facts about age-related macular degeneration. National Eye Institute website. Available at: http://www.nei.nih.gov/health/maculardegen/armd%5Ffacts.asp. Accessed July 15, 2013.

  • The relationship of dietary lipid intake and age-related macular degeneration in a case-control study: AREDS Report No 20. Arch Ophthalmol. 2007;125:671-679.

  • What is macular degeneration? American Macular Degeneration Foundation website. Available at: http://www.macular.org/disease.html. Accessed July 15, 2013.

  • 3/11/2013 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what. Christen WG, Glynn RJ, et al. Vitamins E and C and medical record-confirmed age-related macular degeneration in a randomized trial of male physicians. Ophthalmology. 2012 Aug;119(8):1642-9.