This month has been designated by Prevent Blindness America to raise awareness about age related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision.
How many of us are aware that age related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the primary reasons for vision loss in adults aged 65 and above? AMD is a condition that affects the macula in the eye which is the part of the eye that is responsible for sharp central vision.
AMD Warning Signs
Early symptoms of AMD include distorted vision and spots in the center of vision. Due to the fact that the loss of vision typically occurs gradually without any pain, the effects are often not detected until the disease becomes more serious. For this reason every individual 65 and over should make sure to schedule a comprehensive eye examination at least annually.
AMD Risk Factors
A number of risk factors have been identified including race (Caucasian), age (over 65), being a smoker, eating a diet low in nutrients and having a family history of AMD. Any individual that possesses these risk factors should make sure to schedule a yearly eye exam. Consulting with your optometrist about proper nutrition including vitamins such as C, E, Beta-carotene (Vitamin A), and zinc, which are all antioxidants, and omega-3, can also help lower your risk of developing AMD.
Two Kinds of Macular Degeneration
While the causes are not known for certain, AMD is typically diagnosed as either dry or wet. Dry macular degeneration is found more often and may be a result of advanced age and macular tissue thinning or deposits of pigment in the macula. Wet AMD, referred to as neovascular age related macular degeneration, results when new blood vessels grow under the retina which leak blood and fluid, which kills the retinal cells and results in blind spots in the central vision. Usually wet macular degeneration is the more serious of the two.
Is There Treatment for AMD?
Although there isn't cure for AMD, certain treatments exist that can delay the progression. The treatment prescribed by your optometrist depends on the type of AMD and may involve laser surgery or medications to stop blood vessel growth or in some cases, nutritional supplements. For any treatment to succeed, early diagnosis and treatment is essential. Your eye doctor may also be able to recommend devices to help you adapt to any loss of sight that you have already sustained. Such loss of sight that is not able to be improved by eyeglasses, contact lenses or surgery is called low vision. There are a number of low vision aids on the market today to help individuals to preserve autonomy in daily activities.
It's possible to save your vision by being aware of the risks and signs of AMD. Visit your optometrist to find out more about AMD and low vision.