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Yu-Guang He, M.D. Answers Questions On Ophthalmology

Yu-Guang He, M.D. Answers Questions On: Ophthalmology

What can I do to reduce my risk of getting macular degeneration?

Macular degeneration causes us to gradually lose our sharp, central vision. Blood vessels supplying the macula, a part of the retina, become damaged. We don’t know why this happens, but we do know age plays a role: the older you are, the more likely you are to develop age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Other risk factors include smoking, consuming a high-fat diet, and being white, female, and overweight.

While we can’t control getting older, research has shown that certain lifestyle adjustments may halt the progression and reduce the development of macular degeneration, including not smoking, and consuming certain vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. However, this regimen of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, zinc, and copper is not for smokers, because research has shown that smokers who consume too much beta-carotene are at an increased risk for developing lung cancer. Omega-3 fatty acids and lutein and zeaxanthin supplements may also slow the progression of AMD.

I just found out I’m a Type 2 diabetic. How soon should I see an ophthalmologist?

You should consider me a part of your diabetes treatment team. Because diabetes can damage the retina and lead to vision loss, it’s important I perform an eye exam as soon as possible after your diagnosis and at regularly scheduled intervals.

Sometimes, I see flashes and floaters; is this normal?

Most everyone see flashes of light, floaters, or spots, especially as we get older. As the eye ages, the vitreous humor (the thick gel inside the eye) becomes liquefied and starts to pull away from the retina at the back of the eye. This is when we see those odd floating shapes, which are little clumps of vitreous humor debris and cells.

There are times, however, when seeing flashes or floaters is a serious medical issue and could signal a retinal detachment. Seek immediate emergency care if you experience any of the following drastic changes in vision, especially if you’re over age 45, have experienced a recent eye or head injury, or are very nearsighted:

  • Sudden, flashing light sensations 
  • Floaters, a curtain coming up, or only a partial image
  • Sudden total loss of vision, in either the whole, or part of, the visual field. If this is followed by the return of complete or partial vision, it’s still necessary to seek medical treatment.