The causes of ARMD are complex and the interaction between genetic and environmental factors is not fully understood. Studies in this area take decades to complete because ARMD develops slowly. There is no good prevention and there is currently no cure.
If you have macular degeneration and you smoke you are far more likely to suffer significant loss of vision. The risk is reduced by stopping smoking.
Elevated levels of cholestrol in the blood increases the risk of developing the later stages of macular degeneration.
The macula is exposed to more light over a lifetime and therefore ages more quickly than the rest of the retina. It is sensible to protect your retina from strong sunlight by wearing sunglasses that block UV and blue light and a hat with a brim.
The macula is susceptible to damage by reactive molecules called free radicals. High fat diets produce more free radicals. The damaging effect of free radicals may be reduced by nutirents called anti-oxidants. A diet that is low in anti-oxidants may increase the risk of ARMD. The anti-oxidants vitamins A, C and E and zinc are found in carrots, leafy greens, liver, butter, cheese, citrus fruit, potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, nuts, eggs, wheat germ. Excessive alcohol consumption may deplete anti-oxidants. Omega-3 fatty acids in oily fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring and also reservatol, a substance in red wine, appear to be protective.
A number of dietary nutrients are required by the cells of the macula to function normally. People whose diet is rich in powerful anti-oxidants called carotenoids have a lower risk of ARMD. Lutein and Zeaxanthin are the carotenoids most closely associated with reduced risk and the only two found in the macula. High amounts are present in kale, spring greens, spinach, yellow sweet peppers and egg yolk. Other good sources are broccoli, lettuce, peas, brussel sprouts, green beans, corn, carrot.
People whose diet is deficient in these nutrients appear to have an increased risk of developing ARMD. Supplements may reduce the risk of developing significant vision loss but are not a subsitiute for a varied diet. For those who have a normal and varied diet that includes plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, the benefit of taking these supplements has yet to be demonstrated. There is no strong evidence to support the use of supplements when there is early or no disease. Supplemtents that contain beta-carotene may be harmful to smokers.
Although ARMD is usually not hereditary, those with a family history of the condition may have a greater chance of developing it and may benefit from modifying their diet and habits to lower the risk.