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All About Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

This month has been designated by Prevent Blindness America to spreading knowledge about age related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision.

Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of vision loss in individuals over age 65. AMD is a condition that causes a breakdown of the macula of the retina which is responsible for clear central vision.

What are the Symptoms of Age Related Macular Degeneration?

Early signs of age related macular degeneration include blurriness or blind spots in the central vision. Because the symptoms typically come on slowly without any pain, the effects may not be detected until the disease becomes more serious. This is why it is crucial to have a comprehensive eye examination, especially once you turn 65.

Age Related Macular Degeneration Risk Factors

A number of risk factors have been identified including race (Caucasian), aged over 65, being a cigarette smoker, eating a diet lacking in nutrients and family history. Anyone that is at increased risk should be certain to have an eye exam on a yearly basis. Speaking to your eye doctor about proper nutrition including antioxidants and omega-3 can also help lower your chances of developing AMD.

Wet vs. Dry AMD

Macular degeneration is divided into two categories, wet or dry. Dry macular degeneration is diagnosed more frequently 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 beneath the retina which leak blood, causing the cells to die and resulting in blind spots. Often the wet form is the more serious of the two.

Is There a Cure for Macular Degeneration?

Although there are treatments that can minimize the loss of sight that results from AMD, there is no cure at this time. The treatment prescribed by your optometrist depends on the type of macular degeneration and may involve laser surgery or medical injections or in some cases, nutritional supplements. In any case, early detection and treatment is critical. Speak to your eye doctor also about devices to help you adapt to any vision loss that has already occurred. Such loss of sight that can't be recovered by glasses, contacts or surgery is known as low vision. There are a number of low vision aids available today to greatly assist in retaining independence in routine activities.

Learn about the risks and signs of macular degeneration before it's too late. Don't delay in scheduling your yearly eye exam, especially if you are 65 or older.