February has been dedicated by Prevent Blindness America to increasing awareness about age related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision.
Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the leading causes of vision loss in adults aged 65 and above. AMD is characterized by a deterioration of the macula in the eye which is responsible for sharp central vision.
Symptoms of AMD
The first warning signs of age related macular degeneration include blurred eyesight and blind spots in the center of vision. Since the symptoms typically come on gradually and painlessly, symptoms are often not noticed until more severe vision loss is apparent. This is another reason that every individual 65 and over should make sure to have a routine eye examination regularly.
What are the Risk Factors for AMD?
If you are a Caucasian over the age of 65, who smokes, eats a diet low in nutrients or has a family history of AMD, your chances of developing AMD are increased. If you are categorized as being at greater risk, yearly eye examinations are crucial. Consulting with your optometrist about proper nutrition which includes green leafy vegetables, vitamins such as C, E, A, and zinc, which are all antioxidants, and omega-3, can also help reduce your risk of vision loss.
Dry AMD and Wet AMD
While the causes are not known for certain, AMD is typically categorized as either dry or wet. The dry form is diagnosed more frequently and may be a result of aging and thinning of the macular tissues or pigment build-up in the macula. Wet macular degeneration, referred to as neovascular age related macular degeneration, is caused from the growth of new blood vessels beneath the retina which leak blood and fluid, causing the cells to die and creating blind spots. Often the wet form is the more serious of the two.
Can Macular Degeneration Be Cured?
Although there are treatments that can delay the progression of macular degeneration, the disease currently has no cure. The treatment prescribed by your optometrist is dependent on the type of macular degeneration and may involve laser surgery or medical injections or in some cases, vitamin supplements. In any case, early diagnosis and treatment is critical. An eye doctor may also be able to recommend devices to help you cope with any loss of sight that has already occurred. Vision loss that is not able to be corrected by glasses, contacts or surgery is called low vision. There are quite a few low vision devices on the market today to make everyday activities easier.
Learn about the risk factors and symptoms of AMD before it's too late. Don't delay in scheduling an annual eye exam, especially if you are over the age of 65.