Who Gets Macular Degeneration?

Macular degeneration is the deterioration of the macula, the small central area of the eye that controls visual acuity. Typically developing macular degeneration is a slow, painless vision loss.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)

Macular degeneration is often referred to as age-related macular degeneration because it most frequently occurs in older generations. Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss among older Americans and will grow significantly in the years to come due to the aging of the US population.

Populations Affected

The prevalence of macular degeneration increases significantly in individuals over the age of 80. In particular, the white American population is affected the most, with 14% of white Americans age 80 and older affected by AMD.*  Women also have a higher occurrence of AMD as compared to men due to their longer life expectancy. In 2010, 65% of AMD cases occurred in women as compared to only 35% in men.*

Risk factors

  • Obesity: Overweight patients with macular degeneration double their risk of developing advanced forms of macular degeneration.
  • Inactivity: Those who perform vigorous activity three times weekly reduce their risk for developing AMD compared to inactive patients.
  • Heredity: Family history and specific genes can link to a high risk of developing AMD.
  • High blood pressure: Some studies show a link between high blood pressure and macular degeneration.
  • Smoking: Living with a smoker doubles your risk for developing AMD. Smoking is a factor in about 25% of AMD cases with severe vision loss.

Currently, the best way to protect your eyes from developing macular degeneration is to eat healthy, exercise, and wear sunglasses. Annual eye exams can detect the early onset of macular degeneration and help to preserve your vision. Schedule an appointment with our office today!

*National Eye Institute, 2010

Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month

November is Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month, which aims to increase awareness of diabetes and diabetic eye disease.  This month in particular, Dr. Mitchell would like to encourage people with diabetes to seek treatment for vision problems related to their diabetes. 

Diabetes is a chronic disease that is reaching near epidemic levels in our country.  Diabetes is a disease that results in the body losing the ability to process and use glucose efficiently.  In mild cases, just adjusting diet and activity level can help encourage healthy glucose use.  In advanced cases, the body may require use of oral medications to encourage glucose use, or injectable insulin to facilitate glucose processing.

If glucose isn’t regulated and used properly in our body, it can build up in the bloodstream.  Too much glucose in the bloodstream can prevent blood from properly delivering oxygen and nutrients to tissues throughout our body.  This can lead to blood vessel damage, and damage to sensitive tissues as a result of hypoxia, or not enough oxygen.  The smallest blood vessels at the end of the line are most susceptible to this kind of damage.  This is why damage can happen in the extremities, like fingers and toes.  

The blood vessels inside our eyes are among these smaller more vulnerable vessels that are prone to damage from chronic high or fluctuating blood glucose.  When blood vessels inside the eyes sustain damage, the surrounding tissue called the retina can suffer as well.  When the retina is damaged, it is called diabetic retinopathy.  Diabetic retinopathy includes bleeding of blood vessels inside the eyes, growth of new, faulty blood vessels in the retina, hypoxia of the retina (dying nerve tissue due to lack of oxygen), swelling or separation of the retinal tissue (particularly the macula which is our detailed central vision).  Any type of diabetic retinopathy can cause changes to visual clarity, and in some cases can lead to missing areas of vision and even blindness.

In addition to the problems from diabetic retinopathy, having diabetes makes other eye diseases much more likely to develop such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, and cataracts.

Vision problems and blindness related to diabetic retinopathy are often preventable, and in some cases reversible.  Close monitoring and management of blood glucose with a primary care physician or endocrinologist can prevent these problems from occurring.  If signs of diabetic retinopathy are noted, revision of diabetes management may help reverse course.  

The key to all of this is early detection and awareness.  If you know you have diabetes, you should be seeing an eye care provider at least annually for a detailed eye health and vision examination.  Often diabetes can be developing in early stages (sometimes called insulin resistance syndrome), and may be starting to influence vision without a person’s knowledge of the situation.  Dr. Mitchell regularly identifies people with diabetes.  This is based on early changes related to diabetic retinopathy that was detected in their eye exam.  Dr. Mitchell can then refer them to their primary care provider for further evaluation.

To recognize those who have lost vision from diabetes, and to encourage awareness of this growing issue, Dr. Mitchell is pleased to offer free diabetic eye screening throughout the month of November.  This screening will not replace a detailed, comprehensive eye examination, but will involve taking specialized images of the retinal tissue to look for obvious signs of diabetic retinopathy.  Dr. Mitchell will review and discuss these images with you and make recommendations about any further follow-up that may be important.

Call our office to schedule your free diabetic eye disease screening if:

  • You have diabetes but haven’t had an eye exam for a while
  • You have diabetes, keep up with your eye exams, and are just interested in reviewing your retinal health
  • You don’t have diabetes, but haven’t had a general physical for a while
  • You don’t have diabetes, but would like to learn more about your retinal health.

What Is Dry Eye?

Dry eye syndrome is caused by a chronic lack of moisture and lubrication of the eyes. Your eye’s tears keep the surface of the eye moist and lubricated, as well as washing away dust, debris, and other microorganisms.

What causes dry eye?

Typically dry eye occurs when there is a problem with your tears. Tears are made up of an oily, watery, and mucin component. Any issue with those components could cause dry eye. It could be tear instability, tear film evaporation, or insufficient tear production. The only way to detect the cause of your dry eye is an eye exam.


  • Burning sensation
  • Itchy eyes
  • Aching sensations
  • Heavy eyes
  • Fatigued eyes
  • Sore eyes
  • Dryness sensation
  • Red eyes
  • Photophobia (light sensitivity)
  • Blurred vision

Who gets dry eye?

Dry eye can happen to anyone at any age. Each case of dry eye varies in severity and individual tolerance. However, there are certain factors which can increase your risk for dry eyes. These factors include:

  • Computer use: Humans blink less frequently when working at computers, allowing for increased tear evaporation.
  • Smoking: Causes eyes to dry over time and is the root of various other eye problems.
  • Aging: Dry eye syndrome is more common after the age of 50.
  • Menopause: Women who have completed menopause are at a higher risk for dry eye than men of the same age.
  • Health conditions: Certain diseases have a higher risk of contributing to dry eyes- such as diabetes or thyroid diseases.
  • Medications: Prescription and nonprescription medicines can have dry eye as a side effect.

Visiting The Doctor

Getting an eye exam by an eye doctor is the only way to know for sure you have chronic dry eye syndrome. Symptoms of dry eye can vary significantly from person to person and may even be symptoms of other eye problems. Personal perception of dry eye severity does not indicate whether or not an individual has chronic dry eye syndrome. Some individuals with mild dry eye may feel their eyes are very bothersome, while some individuals with severe dry eye may not consider their symptoms significant.

If you are showing symptoms of dry eye, schedule an appointment with our office as soon as possible. The only way to know the medical severity of your dry eye is through an eye exam.


Mad River Eye Care