February has been designated by Prevent Blindness America to raise awareness about age related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision.
Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the foremost causes of vision loss in adults over the age of 65. AMD is characterized by a deterioration of the macula in the eye which functions to allow clear central vision.
Age Related Macular Degeneration Signs
The first signs of age related macular degeneration are often blurriness or dark spots in the central vision. Since the symptoms typically come on slowly without any pain, signs are often not detected until the disease becomes more serious. This is another reason that it is very important to have a comprehensive eye exam, especially 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 disease. For those that are at greater risk, annual eye examinations are a must. Consulting with your eye doctor about proper nutrition which includes green leafy vegetables, antioxidants and omega-3 can also help lower your risk of vision loss.
Two Kinds of AMD
AMD is divided into two forms, wet or dry. Dry AMD is found more frequently and is thought to be a result of aging and macular tissue thinning or pigment deposits in the macula. Wet macular degeneration, also called neovascular age related macular degeneration, is caused when new blood vessels grow under the retina which leak blood and fluid, killing the cells and resulting in blind spots. Often the wet form results in more serious vision loss.
Can AMD Be Cured?
While there are treatments that can reduce the loss of sight that results from macular degeneration, there is no cure at this time. Depending on whether one has wet or dry macular degeneration the course of treatment may involve laser surgery or medications to stop blood vessel growth or in some cases, dietary supplements. In all instances, early diagnosis and treatment is essential. Your eye doctor will also be able to discuss and prescribe devices to help you cope with any visual difficulty that has already occurred. Such loss of sight that is not able to be corrected by glasses, contacts or surgery is called low vision. There are a growing number of low vision aids available today that can make everyday activities easier.
You can protect your vision by being knowledgeable about the risk factors and symptoms of AMD. Contact your optometrist to learn more about macular degeneration and low vision.