How often are you changing your lightbulbs and replacing them with higher-wattage versions? It’s not a trick question. One of the first signs of macular degeneration, a leading cause of vision loss in older adults, is the need for brighter light from your reading lamp.
Macular degeneration tends to be mild at first. You may notice a bit of blurring when you try to read fine print, for example. With the passage of time, though, you gradually lose central vision due to degeneration of the macula, a tiny bull’s-eye point at the center of the retina. By age 75, about 33 percent of us will have some macular degeneration.
It’s a serious condition—one that needs a doctor’s attention. But there are many ways to prevent it. Here’s what the experts recommend:
Avoid direct sun. Wear sunglasses and a brimmed hat, and avoid the sun during the peak hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Pass the peppers. Bell peppers, especially the red type, pack a powerful punch of lutein and zeaxanthin, two compounds that may play a role in preventing macular degeneration.
Eat a salad. All fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants, chemicals that counteract the oxidative wear and tear that’s always going on in your body.
Bypass fast food. Avoid those bacon cheeseburgers and other high-fat foods. Just as fat can block the arteries of your heart, it can also clog those that go to your eyes.
Kick the smokes. Smoking increases your risk of developing macular degeneration by two to six times.
Soothe the strain. Warm compresses made with an infusion of chamomile or eyebright may help relieve eye strain from macular degeneration. Steep 1 teaspoon of either herb in 1 cup of hot water, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes. Strain, then saturate a clean cloth or gauze pad with the cooled solution. Cover your eyes and rest for 20 minutes.