Sometimes life doesn't quite seem fair in the way it sneaks up on us and hits us in our most vulnerable spot. Just ask Achilles. You and I, however, are incredibly lucky to live in an age where technology can keep us ahead of the game and even help us win it.
During a routine eye exam this week, it was confirmed that I have the early signs of Macular Degeneration. This should come as no surprise since my medical history shows I am in a high risk category:
~~ Family history of macular degeneration
~~ Higher than normal exposure to sunlight
~~ Light-colored eyes
~~ High cholesterol
~~ Female gender
~~ Non-hispanic White
~~ Hyperopia (far sightedness)
Still, it is quite an adjustment to realize how profoundly this disease could affect my life. I cannot imagine being unable to transport myself to another century, another country, another culture through reading. I cannot imagine walking out the door without my camera, unable to capture photographs of Pensacola Beach. I cannot imagine looking out my window every morning, unable to see the paradise that surrounds me.
I am grateful to live in a time where a disease such as macular degeneration can be caught early enough to slow its progression, possibly to a point in time where it can be cured. Though we may not escape our genetic predispostion to certain diseases, knowledge is power, so please click on the links within this post to learn how to lower your risk of developing macular degeneration.
WEAR SUNGLASSES! Protect your eyes from those harmful UV rays! Even more importantly, please, please, put sunglasses on your children. You wouldn't believe the number of children I see on our blindingly reflective, sugar-white beach without protective eyewear. Start them out at a young age with sunglasses and protect their vision (sunglasses are readily available for babies) or at least with caps/hats, just as you would their skin with sunblock. This is especially important for children with lighter-colored eyes.
"A recent study has shown that people who stay outdoors in the summer sun for more than 5 hours a day in both their teens and 30s have a twofold greater likelihood of developing early macular degeneration changes (soft drusen or increased retinal pigment). In these individuals i.e. those who have high sun exposure, the likelihood of developing early macular degeneration is considerably reduced by wearing hats or sunglasses at least half of the time when outside in the summer sun (Arch Ophthalmol. 2004 May;122(5):750-7)."
DON'T SMOKE! Though I do not and never have smoked, this remains the most significant controllable risk factor for macular degeneration.
TAKE VITAMINS! A recent study, Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS), showed that a daily supplement of 500 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C, 400 international units (IU) of vitamin E, 15 mg of beta carotene (often as vitamin A — up to 25,000 IU), 80 mg of zinc (as zinc oxide) and 2 mg of copper (as cupric oxide) reduced the risk of progressing to moderate or severe vision loss by up to 25 percent. You may get all of these over-the-counter supplements at your local pharmacy, but you should discuss them with your primary care physician before adding them to your diet. I take Preservision and Lutein daily, in addition to my regular vitamins and antioxidants.
EAT A HEALTHY DIET & START EXERCISING! Eat a well balanced, low-fat diet that is rich in leafy green vegetables, and develop/maintain a program of cardiovascular exercise to reduce your serum blood-cholesterol level.
Your ability to see the island may always remain in your heart and dreams, but protect your vision so that your view of our incredible emerald water and sugar-white sand will only be a glance away.