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Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) Awareness

We are currently in the midst of age related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision month.

Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the primary causes of vision loss in those aged 65 and above. AMD is characterized by a deterioration of the macula of the retina which functions to allow sharp central vision.

Symptoms of AMD

Early symptoms of age related macular degeneration are often distorted eyesight and dark spots in the center of vision. Because the vision loss usually occurs gradually without any pain, symptoms are sometimes not detected until more severe vision loss is apparent. For this reason it is very important to book a routine eye exam, particularly once you turn 65.

Risk Factors for AMD

There are some risk factors of developing AMD including race (Caucasian), being over the age of 65, being a cigarette smoker, obesity, high blood pressure and family history. Any individual that possesses these risk factors should be certain to schedule a yearly eye exam. Discussing proper nutrition with your eye doctor can also help reduce your risk of vision loss.

Wet and Dry AMD

AMD is divided into two categories, wet or dry. The dry version is diagnosed more often and may be a result of aging and thinning of the macular tissues or a build-up of pigment in the macula. Wet macular degeneration, also called neovascular age related macular degeneration, is caused from the growth of new blood vessels under the retina which leak blood and fluid, causing the cells to die and resulting in blind spots. Typically wet AMD is the more serious of the two.

Can Macular Degeneration Be Cured?

Although there are treatments that can reduce the loss of sight that results from macular degeneration, the disease currently has no cure. The treatment prescribed by your optometrist depends on the type of macular degeneration and may involve vitamin supplements, laser surgery or medical injections. For any treatment to succeed, early diagnosis greatly improves the chances of successful treatment. An optometrist will also be able to discuss and prescribe devices to help you adapt to any visual difficulty that has already occurred. Such loss of sight that is not able to be recovered by glasses, contact lenses or surgery is called low vision. There are a growing number of low vision devices available today to greatly assist in sustaining autonomy in routine activities.

It's possible to protect your vision by being knowledgeable about the risk factors and symptoms of macular degeneration. Don't delay in scheduling an annual eye exam, especially if you are over the age of 65.