This month has been dedicated by Prevent Blindness America to raise awareness about age related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision.
Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of vision loss in those over the age of 65. AMD is a condition that causes a breakdown of the macula of the retina which is responsible for clear central vision.
Early warning signs of age related macular degeneration are often unclear vision and dark spots in the center of vision. Due to the fact that the loss of vision typically occurs slowly without any pain, the effects are sometimes not observed until the disease has reached a later stage. This is why every individual over 65 years of age should make sure to have a routine eye exam 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 higher risk of developing the condition. For those that are categorized as being at greater risk, annual eye exams are essential. Discussing proper nutrition with your eye doctor can also help lower your risk of vision loss.
Dry AMD vs. Wet AMD
While the causes are not known for certain, AMD is typically diagnosed as either wet or dry. The dry form is more commonplace and is thought to be caused by advanced age and thinning of the macular tissues or deposits of pigment 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 seep blood, which kills the retinal cells and causes blind spots in the central vision. Typically wet AMD leads to more severe vision loss.
Treatment for Macular Degeneration
While there are treatments that can delay the progression of macular degeneration, the disease currently has no cure. Depending on whether one has dry or wet AMD the treatment may involve vitamin supplements, laser surgery or medical injections. For any treatment to succeed, early detection and treatment is essential. Speak to your optometrist also about devices to help you adapt to any visual difficulty that has already occurred. Vision loss that can't be improved by glasses, contact lenses or surgery is known as low vision. There are many low vision aids on the market today that can greatly assist in sustaining self-sufficiency in routine activities.
Learn about the risk factors and symptoms of AMD before it's too late. Don't delay in scheduling your yearly eye exam, particularly if you are over 65.