If you’re a young or middle-aged adult who enjoys being outside in the bright sunshine, you’re probably not thinking about the risk for going blind from age-related macular degeneration (AMD). But according to a new study published in the journal Retina, you should be.
A research team from the University of Cologne in Germany and Radboud University in the Netherlands found that increased sunlight exposure during working life significantly increases risk of AMD later in life. Interestingly, sunlight exposure after retirement was not a risk factor for AMD, but could increase risk for other conditions, including cataracts.
Data for the study came from 3,701 participants in the European Genetic Database.
“Sunlight exposure at a younger age has an influence on the development of a severe eye disease that [occurs] decades later,” say the authors in their paper.
Researchers have known for many years that sunlight increases oxidative stress in the retina. Studies have shown that it can cause build-ups of waste deposits in the retina known as lipofuscin to become toxic.
The authors recommend that, when outdoors, people wear sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats to prevent development of AMD and other diseases later in life.
If you or a family member has a retinal disease, you can register in the Foundation’s patient database, www.MyRetinaTracker.org, to learn about forthcoming clinical trials and help researchers conduct other studies for the entire spectrum of retinal diseases.
Photo, above: members of the Foundation Fighting Blindness staff taking preventive measures against AMD.