February has been dedicated by Prevent Blindness America to increasing consciousness about age related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision.
Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of vision loss in those over 65. AMD is a condition that affects the macula of the retina which is the part of the eye that is responsible for clear vision in the center of your field of view.
What are the Indications of AMD?
The first signs of age related macular degeneration include blurriness or dark spots in the central vision. Because the symptoms typically come on at a slow pace and painlessly, symptoms are often not noticed until the disease has progressed. This is another reason that it is very important to schedule a comprehensive eye exam, especially after the age of 65.
What are the Risk Factors for AMD?
There are some risk factors of developing AMD including being Caucasian, aged over 65, being a cigarette smoker, eating an unhealthy diet and genetics. Any individual that is at increased risk should be certain to schedule an eye exam on a yearly basis. Learning about proper nutritional changes with your eye doctor can also help reduce your risk of vision loss.
Wet and Dry AMD
While the causes are not known for certain, macular degeneration is usually diagnosed as either wet or dry. Dry AMD is more common and is theorized to be a result of aging and thinning of the macular tissues or deposits of pigment in the macula. The wet form, also called neovascular age related macular degeneration, results when new blood vessels grow under the retina which seep blood and fluid, which destroys the retinal cells and results in vision loss in the central vision. Often wet macular degeneration leads to more serious vision loss.
Is There Treatment for AMD?
Although there is no cure for AMD, certain treatments exist that can delay the progression. Depending on whether one has wet or dry macular degeneration the course of treatment may involve vitamin supplements, laser surgery or medical injections. In all cases, early detection greatly improves the likelihood of successful treatment. Speak to your optometrist also about devices to help you cope with any vision loss that you have already sustained. Such loss of sight that can't be corrected by standard measures such as eyeglasses, contacts or surgery is called low vision. There are a growing number of low vision devices on the market today to make everyday activities easier.
Learn about the risks and signs of macular degeneration before it's too late. Schedule an appointment with your eye doctor to learn more about AMD and low vision.