February has been designated by Prevent Blindness America to raise awareness about age related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision.
Did you know that age related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading reason for vision loss in individuals aged 65 and over? AMD is characterized by a deterioration of the macula in the eye which is the part of the eye that is responsible for sharp vision in the center of your field of view.
Indications of AMD
The first symptoms of age related macular degeneration include fuzzy or dark spots in the central vision. Due to the fact that the symptoms typically come on at a slow pace without any pain, symptoms may not be perceived until more severe vision loss is apparent. This is another reason that it is very important to have a comprehensive eye exam, particularly once you turn 65.
What are the Risk Factors for AMD?
If you are of Caucasian decent, over 65 years of age, a smoker who is obese and has high blood pressure or has family members that have had AMD, you are at higher risk of developing the disease. If you have a number of these risk factors, annual eye examinations are crucial. Speaking to your eye doctor about proper nutrition including vitamins such as C, E, A, and zinc, which are all antioxidants, and omega-3 is also advised.
Dry Macular Degeneration vs. Wet Macular Degeneration
While the causes are not known for certain, macular degeneration is usually diagnosed as either wet or dry. The dry version is more common and is theorized to be caused by aging and thinning of the macular tissues or deposits of pigment in the macula. Wet macular degeneration, referred to as neovascular age related macular degeneration, results when new blood vessels grow under the retina which seep blood, killing the cells and creating blind spots. Usually wet macular degeneration results in more serious vision loss.
Is There a Cure for Macular Degeneration?
While there is no cure for macular degeneration, there are treatments that can reduce vision loss. The treatment prescribed by your optometrist depends on the type of AMD and may involve laser surgery or medical injections or in some cases, vitamin supplements. For any treatment to succeed, early detection greatly improves the chances of successful treatment. Speak to your eye doctor also about devices to help you cope with any loss of sight that you have already sustained. Vision loss that cannot be recovered by eyeglasses, contact lenses or surgical procedures is called low vision. There are a growing number of low vision aids on the market today that can make everyday activities easier.
Learn about the risks and symptoms of AMD before it's too late. Don't delay in scheduling your yearly eye exam, particularly if you are 65 or older.