This month has been dedicated by Prevent Blindness America to raise awareness about age related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision.
Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of loss of vision in those over age 65. AMD is a condition that causes a breakdown of the macula in the eye which is responsible for sharp central vision.
Could it be Age Related Macular Degeneration?
Early symptoms of age related macular degeneration include blurriness or blind spots in the central vision. Since the symptoms typically come on slowly without any pain, the effects may not be detected until more severe vision loss is apparent. This is why it is crucial to have a routine eye examination, especially after the age of 65.
What are the Risk Factors for AMD?
If you are a Caucasian over 65 years of age, a smoker who is obese and has high blood pressure or has family members that have had AMD, your chances of developing AMD are increased. Anyone that is at increased risk should make certain to schedule an eye exam on a yearly basis. Speaking to your eye doctor about proper nutrition including green leafy vegetables, vitamins such as C, E, Beta-carotene (Vitamin A), and zinc, which are all antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, is also a good way to protect yourself.
Dry Macular Degeneration vs. Wet Macular Degeneration
In general, macular degeneration is typically diagnosed as either dry or wet. The dry form is more commonplace and may be a result of aging and thinning of the macular tissues or pigment deposits in the macula. Wet AMD, referred to as neovascular age related macular degeneration, is caused from the growth of new blood vessels under the retina which seep blood, which destroys the retinal cells and causes vision loss in the central vision. Typically the wet form is the more serious of the two.
Is There Treatment for AMD?
While there are treatments that can delay the progression of macular degeneration, there is currently no cure for the disease. The treatment prescribed by your optometrist depends on the type of AMD and may involve laser surgery or medications to stop blood vessel growth or in some cases, vitamin supplements. For any treatment to succeed, early diagnosis and treatment is essential. Speak to your optometrist also about devices to help you cope with any visual difficulty that you have already sustained. Such loss of sight that cannot be recovered by the usual measures such as eyeglasses, contacts or surgery is known as low vision. There are a growing number of low vision aids that can be used today to make everyday activities easier.
Learn about the risk factors and signs of AMD before it's too late. Visit your eye doctor to learn more about AMD and low vision.