February has been dedicated by Prevent Blindness America to creating awareness about age related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision.
Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of vision loss in individuals over age 65. AMD is a condition that causes a breakdown of the macula of the retina which is responsible for sharp central vision.
AMD Warning Signs
The first signs of AMD are often unclear vision and blind spots in the center of vision. Since the symptoms typically come on at a slow pace without any pain, symptoms may not be perceived until the disease has progressed. This is why it is crucial to book a comprehensive eye exam, particularly once you turn 65.
What are the Risk Factors for Age Related Macular Degeneration?
If you are a Caucasian over the age of 65, a smoker who is obese and has high blood pressure or has family members that have had AMD, you are at greater risk of developing the condition. If you are categorized as being at greater risk, yearly eye exams are a must. Speaking to your optometrist about proper nutrition which includes green leafy vegetables, antioxidants and omega-3 can also help reduce your chances of vision loss.
Dry AMD vs. Wet AMD
Macular degeneration is divided into two forms, wet or dry. Dry AMD is diagnosed more often and is thought to be caused by advanced age and thinning of the macular tissues or pigment deposits in the macula. Wet AMD, referred to as neovascular age related macular degeneration, results from the growth of new blood vessels beneath the retina which seep blood, which destroys the retinal cells and causes blind spots in the central vision. Usually wet AMD is the more serious of the two.
Is There Treatment for AMD?
While there are treatments that can reduce the vision loss that results from macular degeneration, there is no cure at this time. Depending on whether one has wet or dry macular degeneration the treatment may involve dietary supplements, laser surgery or medical injections. For any treatment to succeed, early diagnosis and treatment is critical. Speak to your optometrist also about devices to help you adapt to any loss of sight that you have already sustained. Vision loss that cannot be recovered by glasses, contact lenses or surgery is called low vision. There are a growing number of low vision devices on the market today to make everyday activities easier.
It's possible to save your vision by being aware of the risks and signs of macular degeneration. Don't delay in scheduling your yearly eye exam, especially if you are 65 or older.