This month has been designated by Prevent Blindness America to spreading awareness about age related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision.
How many individuals are aware that age related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the leading causes of loss of vision in those over 65? AMD is characterized by a deterioration of the macula of the retina which functions to allow clear central vision.
Warning Signs of AMD
Early symptoms of age related macular degeneration are often distorted eyesight and blind spots in the center of vision. Since the vision loss typically occurs gradually and painlessly, symptoms may not be observed until more severe vision loss is apparent. This is another reason that every individual 65 and over should be sure to schedule a comprehensive eye examination at least annually.
AMD Risk Factors
If you are of Caucasian decent, over 65 years of age, who smokes, is obese and has high blood pressure or has family members that have had AMD, you are at greater risk of developing the disease. Anyone that possesses the above risk factors should make certain to schedule an annual eye exam. Discussing proper nutritional changes with your optometrist can also help reduce your chances of developing AMD.
Wet vs. Dry Macular Degeneration
In general, AMD is typically diagnosed as either dry or wet. Dry macular degeneration is diagnosed more frequently and is theorized to be caused by aging and macular tissue thinning or pigment build-up in the macula. Wet macular degeneration, also called neovascular age related macular degeneration, is caused from the growth of new blood vessels under the retina which seep blood, causing the cells to die and creating blind spots. Typically wet AMD causes more serious vision loss.
Macular Degeneration Treatment
Although there isn’t a cure for macular degeneration, there are treatments that can halt or minimize loss of vision. Depending on whether one has dry or wet macular degeneration the treatment may involve nutritional supplements, laser surgery or medical injections. In either case, early detection greatly improves the chances of successful treatment. Your eye doctor may also be able to discuss and prescribe devices to help you adapt to any loss of sight that you have already sustained. Such loss of sight that cannot be corrected by the usual measures such as glasses, contacts or surgical procedures is called low vision. There are a number of low vision aids available today to make everyday activities easier.
It's possible to protect your eyesight by being aware of the risks and symptoms of AMD. Don't delay in scheduling an annual eye exam, especially if you are over 65.