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Mulqueeny Eye Centers - Blog

"Trouble with the Curve" - A Lesson on Age-Related Macular Degeneration

March 12, 2013 @ 08:58 PM -- by JoAnn DeRousse, COT


I rented a movie over the weekend called "Trouble With the Curve", a story about Gus Lobel (Clint Eastwood), an aging baseball scout who is trying to ignore the signs of aging that are affecting his ability to do his job.  Most notably, his vision. 

Early on in the movie we see him stumble into his coffee table, hit the side of his garage with his car and use a magnifying glass to read the sports pages of the newspaper.  As the camera lets us experience what he is seeing, there is a noticeable blur located centrally in his vision.  Aha, I think...this guy has macular degeneration. 

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is caused by the deterioration of the central part of the retina known as the macula, the part of the retina that is responsible for central vision, sharp detail and color perception. Certainly things that are very important for Gus to perform his job!

Early signs of the disease may include vision that is distorted, wavy lines, blurring of the central vision, difficulty with recognizing faces, driving and problems reading. Though the exact cause of macular degeneration is unknown, there are several risk factors that we ARE aware of that can contribute to developing the disease.

Let's take a look at Gus Lobel, the character in the movie.  He's probably in his 70's, is a heavy cigar smoker and has a terrible diet...I mean really....cold spam out of the can for breakfast...not exactly the breakfast of champions!  He has light eyes and skin and has spent countless years sitting on the bleachers at ballparks in the sun without sunglasses.   So, in his case, age, smoking, diet, and UV exposure all played a role in the development of his macular degeneration.  Seriously, this guy has a lot of strikes against him! 

Now, let's take a look at Gus' daughter, Mickey.  Obviously female, family history of macular degeneration, fair complexion (red hair, blue eyes)...she has even MORE risk factors than her dad.  Though early in the plot, we see Mickey working toward partnership in her law firm and whipping up a healthy smoothie for breakfast, later as she puts her own career on hold to go on the road with her dad, we see her scarfing down a couple of hot dogs while sitting on the bleachers watching a sunglasses either.   Hmmmmm....makes you wonder what HER vision will be like by the time she is her dad's age?


The lesson learned from this movie?  First, know the risk factors of developing age-related macular degeneration.  Change the risk factors that you can control such as smoking cessation, eating a healthy diet and limiting your sun exposure.  See your eye care specialist if you have family history or have more than two of the risk factors listed below.  

Remember, early detection is the key to life of good vision! 


Risk Factors for AMD 

(photo credit:  The Doctors TV Show)

  • Age - Age is the single most important risk factor associated with developing macular degeneration.  
  • Family history - Other than age, family history can increase your risk of developing macular degeneration by nearly 50%.  Macula Risk®, a genetic test now available for patients who have already been diagnosed with early or intermediate AMD, helps determine whether the disease will progress to a more severe form of AMD.  It also lets us know if a patient carries the gene for the development of the disease...important information for family members who may be at risk of developing macular degeneration.
  • Gender - Females are generally at higher risk than males.  Menopause may play a part in the development of AMD as does the fact that women generally live longer than men, increasing the odds that they will develop macular degeneration in their lifetime.
  • Light colored skin and eyes - Macular degeneration is more prevalent in Caucasians and there appears to be a link between the development of AMD and the amount of pigment found in the skin and eyes.  People with fair complexions are at higher risk than races who have darker skin and eyes.
  • Low macular pigment - According to researchers, we now know that there appears to be a link between the amount of pigment found in your macula and the risk of developing AMD.  If you have low amounts of pigment in the macula, you are at higher risk and if you have higher amounts of pigment, you are at lower risk.  We can now measure the amount of pigment in your macula through a device called QuantifEye.  By making changes to your diet and adding nutrients such as lutein and zeaxanthin, you can actually increase the amount of pigment in the macula adding a layer of protection against the development of the disease.  Though it is sometimes difficult to get adequate levels through diet alone, adding a supplement like EyePromise® Restore, can help rebuild macular pigment and help preserve healthy vision.
  • Unprotected UV Exposure - Sunglasses with good UVA and UVB protection are a must!
  • Smoking - Other than protection from harmful UV rays, smoking cessation is THE most important change you can control to reduce your risk of macular degeneration.
  • Diet & Obesity - Eating a heart and eye-healthy diet rich in antioxidant vitamins as well as zinc, lutein and zeaxanthin may help safeguard you against developing AMD.  People with a higher body mass index (BMI) are also at higher risk for developing the disease as well as developing a more severe form of AMD.
  • High Blood Pressure & Cardiovascular Disease -  The eye is a vasular-rich organ, therefore changes in blood pressure or other cardiovascular conditions can have a significant impact on eye health.

To find out your risk factor, join us for a FREE macular risk screening and assessment on Saturday, March 23 from 9:00 AM - 1:00 PM.  

Appointments are required.  Call us today at 314-542-3600 to reserve your spot!