This month has been dedicated by Prevent Blindness America to increasing consciousness about age related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision.
Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the leading reasons behind vision loss in individuals over age 65. AMD is characterized by a deterioration of the macula of the retina which functions to allow clear vision in the center of your field of view.
Warning Signs of AMD
Early symptoms of age related macular degeneration include blurriness or dark spots in the central vision. Because the symptoms typically come on gradually and painlessly, signs may not be noticed until more severe vision loss is apparent. For this reason every individual 65 and over should make sure to have a routine eye exam on a regular basis.
What are the Risk Factors for Age Related Macular Degeneration?
If you are a Caucasian over the age of 65, a smoker who consumes a diet low in nutrients or has family members that have had AMD, your chances of getting AMD are higher. Anyone that is at increased risk should be sure to have an eye exam on a yearly basis. Consulting with your eye doctor about proper nutrition including green leafy vegetables, antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, is also advised.
Dry AMD vs. Wet AMD
Macular degeneration is divided into two categories, dry and wet. Dry macular degeneration is more common and may be caused by aging and thinning of the macular tissues or pigment build-up in the macula. Wet macular degeneration, referred to as neovascular age related macular degeneration, is caused from the growth of new blood vessels beneath the retina which seep blood and fluid, killing the cells and resulting in blind spots. Typically wet AMD results in more serious vision loss.
Macular Degeneration Treatment
While there are treatments that can minimize the loss of sight that results from macular degeneration, there is currently no cure for the disease. The treatment prescribed by your optometrist is dependent on the type of AMD and may involve laser surgery or medications to stop blood vessel growth or in some cases, vitamin supplements. In all instances, early detection greatly improves the likelihood of successful treatment. Your optometrist will also be able to suggest devices to help you deal with any vision loss that has already occurred. Vision loss that is not able to be recovered by the usual measures such as glasses, contact lenses or surgical procedures is called low vision. There are a number of low vision aids that can be used today to help individuals to retain autonomy in daily activities.
You can protect your vision by being aware of the risks and symptoms of macular degeneration. Don't delay in scheduling an annual eye exam, especially if you are 65 or older.