- Genetic analysis of macular degeneration risk
- Analysis of the three relevant genetic variations
- Genetically tailored prevention program
- Self-test for early detection
- Adapted nutrition to aid prevention
- Micronutrient recommendation to aid prevention
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Macular degeneration is a painless condition affecting the retina of the human eye. The condition usually begins to slowly affect individuals over 50 years of age and impairs the center of the visual field.
The condition results in a disruptive spot in the center of the visual field, which can make reading and recognizing details (such as faces) difficult or even impossible without impairing peripheral vision. Macular degeneration is the most common cause of blindness in industrialized countries and roughly 30 million people worldwide are estimated to suffer from the condition. Men and women are equally affected.
The layer of tissue sensitive to light in the human eye is known as the retina. The region of the retina where light is most heavily focused is called the macula. This is the point where your vision is at its highest resolution. Macular degeneration occurs when cells in the macula die with increasing age. It may also be aggravated by the formation of new blood vessels or by metabolic waste products that impair macular function. Certain environmental risk factors may accelerate these processes considerably and it is therefore advisable to minimize the effects of such risks as much as possible. These include smoking, heart disease and circulatory system conditions, high blood pressure, a poor diet and extreme exposure to light. Preventative measures focus mainly on minimizing such risk factors in order to delay or prevent development of the condition.
Macular degeneration advances slowly over a long period during which symptoms are initially barely noticeable but worsen gradually. Individuals affected usually first experience difficulty reading. Some letters just seem to disappear. Straight lines and edges like window frames appear wavy. This effect can be easily detected and measured by use of a simple test. This is followed by a gradual loss in sharpness of vision, increased difficulty reading, impaired contrast sensitivity and difficulty discerning colors, and increased sensitivity to glare. In advanced stages, the center of the visual field is often only populated by gray shadows which themselves disappear as the condition worsens even further.
As the condition affects only the macula, only the center of the visual field is affected. Macular degeneration does not cause total blindness because peripheral vision as well as color vision remain unaffected. Affected individuals thus retain mobility and orientation. Treatment options for advanced macular degeneration are limited and can usually only slow and not reverse the worsening of symptoms. For this reason, prevention and early detection of macular degeneration are of especial importance to facilitate timely treatment of the condition.