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Risk Factors and Warning Signs of Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

February is age related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision awareness month.

Are you aware that age related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the foremost causes of loss of vision in adults over age 65? AMD is characterized by a degeneration of the macula of the retina which functions to allow sharp vision in the center of your field of view.

Signs of AMD

The first signs of AMD are often blurred vision and spots in the center of vision. Because the symptoms typically come on at a slow pace without any pain, symptoms are sometimes not perceived until the disease has reached a later stage. This is why every individual over 65 years of age should be sure to have a comprehensive eye examination regularly.

What are the Risk Factors for AMD?

A number of risk factors have been identified including being Caucasian, age (over 65), being a cigarette smoker, obesity, high blood pressure and family history. If you have a number of these risk factors, yearly eye examinations are crucial. Consulting with your eye doctor about proper nutrition including green leafy vegetables, vitamins such as C, E, Beta-carotene (Vitamin A), and zinc, which are all antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, is also a good way to protect yourself.

Dry AMD and Wet AMD

AMD is divided into two forms, wet or dry. The dry form is more common and is thought to be caused by aging and macular tissue thinning or a build-up of pigment in the macula. The wet form, also called neovascular age related macular degeneration, is caused from the growth of new blood vessels under the retina which leak blood and fluid, which destroys the retinal cells and causes blind spots in the central vision. Typically the wet form is the more serious of the two.

Is There Treatment for Macular Degeneration?

While there isn’t a cure for AMD, there are treatments that can delay the progression. The treatment prescribed by your optometrist depends on the type of macular degeneration and may involve laser surgery or medications to stop blood vessel growth or in some cases, dietary supplements. In either case, early diagnosis greatly improves the likelihood of successful treatment. Speak to your eye doctor also about devices to help you cope with any vision loss that you have already sustained. Vision loss that cannot be corrected by the usual measures such as glasses, contacts or surgical procedures is known as low vision. There are quite a few low vision aids that can be used today that can greatly assist in preserving autonomy in routine activities.

Learn about the risks and signs of macular degeneration before it's too late. Schedule a visit with your optometrist to find out more about AMD and low vision.