February is age related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision awareness month.
How many of us are aware that age related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading reason for vision loss in individuals aged 65 and over? AMD is characterized by a degeneration of the macula in the eye which functions to allow sharp central vision.
Could it be AMD?
Early warning signs of AMD are often blurriness or blind spots in the central vision. Due to the fact that the loss of vision typically occurs at a slow pace without any pain, signs may not be perceived until the disease becomes more serious. This is why every individual over 65 years of age should be sure to have a comprehensive eye examination on a regular basis.
What are the Risk Factors for Age Related Macular Degeneration?
If you are a Caucasian over the age of 65, a smoker who is obese and has high blood pressure or has a family history of AMD, you are at greater risk of developing the disease. If you have a number of these risk factors, yearly eye examinations are essential. Speaking to your optometrist about proper nutrition which includes antioxidants and omega-3 is also a good way to protect yourself.
Dry Macular Degeneration and Wet Macular Degeneration
Macular degeneration is divided into two forms, wet or dry. Dry macular degeneration is diagnosed more frequently and is thought to be caused by aging and thinning of the macular tissues or a build-up of pigment in the macula. Wet macular degeneration, referred to as neovascular age related macular degeneration, results from the growth of new blood vessels beneath the retina which seep blood and fluid, destroying the cells and creating blind spots. Often the wet form is the more serious of the two.
Can AMD Be Cured?
Although there are treatments that can delay the progression of macular degeneration, the disease currently has no cure. Depending on the type of macular degeneration the course of treatment may involve dietary supplements, laser surgery or certain medications that stop abnormal blood vessel growth. In all instances, early diagnosis greatly improves the likelihood of successful treatment. Your optometrist may also be able to suggest devices to help you adapt to any vision loss that you have already sustained. Such loss of sight that cannot be corrected by standard measures such as glasses, contacts or surgical procedures is known as low vision. There are quite a few low vision devices available today that can make everyday activities easier.
Learn about the risks and signs of macular degeneration before it's too late. Don't delay in scheduling an annual eye exam, particularly if you are over the age of 65.