This month has been dedicated by Prevent Blindness America to spreading awareness about age related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision.
Did you know that age related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the primary reasons for loss of vision in those over 65? AMD is characterized by a deterioration of the macula in the eye which functions to allow sharp central vision.
Warning Signs of Age Related Macular Degeneration
Early symptoms of AMD are usually blurriness or blind spots in the central vision. Because the vision loss usually happens slowly and painlessly, symptoms are sometimes not detected until the disease has reached a later stage. This is why it is very important to book a comprehensive eye examination, especially once you turn 65.
What are the Risk Factors for AMD?
There are a number of risk factors of developing AMD including being Caucasian, being over the age of 65, smoking and genetics. Any individual that possesses the above risk factors should be sure to schedule a yearly eye exam. Speaking to your eye doctor about proper nutrition including vitamins such as C, E, Beta-carotene (Vitamin A), and zinc, which are all antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids, is also advised.
Dry Macular Degeneration vs. Wet Macular Degeneration
In general, AMD is typically categorized as either dry or wet. The dry version is diagnosed more often and may be caused by 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 beneath the retina which leak blood, killing the cells and creating blind spots. Usually wet macular degeneration is the more serious of the two.
Is There a Cure for Macular Degeneration?
Although there are treatments that can delay the progression of macular degeneration, there is no cure at this time. The treatment prescribed by your optometrist depends on the type of AMD and may involve vitamin supplements, laser surgery or certain medications that stop abnormal blood vessel growth. For any treatment to succeed, early diagnosis and treatment is essential. An eye doctor may also be able to suggest devices to help you adapt to any vision loss that has already occurred. Vision loss that is not able to be recovered by standard measures such as eyeglasses, contacts or surgery is known as low vision. There are a number of low vision devices available today that can greatly assist in preserving independence in routine activities.
It's possible to save your vision by being aware of the risks and signs of macular degeneration. Visit your optometrist to learn more about macular degeneration and low vision.