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 primary cause of loss of vision in adults aged 65 and over. AMD is characterized by a deterioration of the macula of the retina which is the part of the eye that is responsible for sharp central vision.
The first warning signs of age related macular degeneration are usually unclear vision and spots in the center of vision. Due to the fact that the symptoms typically come on slowly and painlessly, signs may not be perceived until the disease becomes more serious. This is why it is very important to schedule a comprehensive eye exam, especially once you turn 65.
Age Related Macular Degeneration Risk Factors
If you are a Caucasian over 65 years of age, a smoker who consumes a diet low in nutrients or has a family history of AMD, you are at higher risk of developing the disease. Any individual that is at increased risk should be sure to schedule an eye exam on a yearly basis. Speaking to your optometrist about proper nutrition which includes antioxidants and omega-3 can also help lower your risk of vision loss.
Wet and Dry AMD
Macular degeneration is divided into two forms, dry and wet. Dry AMD is found more frequently and is theorized to be a result of aging and thinning of the macular tissues or pigment build-up in the macula. Wet macular degeneration, also called neovascular age related macular degeneration, results from the growth of new blood vessels under the retina which leak blood, causing the cells to die and creating blind spots. Often wet macular degeneration is the more serious of the two.
Can AMD Be Cured?
Although there are treatments that can delay the progression of AMD, the disease currently has no cure. Depending on the type of macular degeneration the course of treatment may involve laser surgery or medical injections or in some cases, nutritional supplements. For any treatment to succeed, early diagnosis greatly improves the chances of successful treatment. An optometrist will also be able to recommend devices to help you adapt to any vision loss that you have already sustained. Such loss of sight that is not able to be improved by standard measures such as eyeglasses, contact lenses or surgical procedures is known as low vision. There are a growing number of low vision devices on the market today that can make everyday activities easier.
You can save your eyesight by being aware of the risks and signs of AMD. Don't delay in scheduling an annual eye exam, especially if you are 65 or older.