February has been dedicated by Prevent Blindness America to spreading knowledge about age related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision.
Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the primary causes of loss of vision in those aged 65 and above. AMD is characterized by a deterioration of the macula of the retina which functions to allow clear vision in the center of your field of view.
Could it be Age Related Macular Degeneration?
Early symptoms of age related macular degeneration are often fuzzy or blind spots in the central vision. Due to the fact that the loss of vision usually occurs at a slow pace and painlessly, the effects are often not observed until the disease has reached a later stage. This is why every individual 65 and over should make sure to have a routine eye examination on a regular basis.
What are the Risk Factors for AMD?
There are certain risk factors of developing AMD including being Caucasian, being over the age of 65, smoking and family history. For those that are at greater risk, yearly eye examinations are a must. Speaking to your eye doctor about proper nutrition including green leafy vegetables, vitamins such as C, E, A, and zinc, which are all antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids, can also help reduce your risk of vision loss.
Wet and Dry Macular Degeneration
In general, AMD is usually diagnosed as either dry or wet. Dry AMD is more commonplace and is theorized to be caused by advanced age and macular tissue thinning or pigment build-up in the macula. The wet form, referred to as neovascular age related macular degeneration, is caused from the growth of new blood vessels under the retina which seep blood and fluid, which kills the retinal cells and causes blind spots in the central vision. Often wet macular degeneration is the more serious of the two.
Treatment for AMD
Although there are treatments that can delay the progression of macular degeneration, there is no cure at this time. Depending on the type of macular degeneration the course of treatment may involve laser surgery or medical injections or in some cases, nutritional supplements. In any case, early diagnosis greatly enhances the chances of successful treatment. Your eye doctor will also be able to suggest devices to help you cope with any loss of sight that has already occurred. Vision loss that cannot be recovered by the usual measures such as eyeglasses, contacts or surgery is called low vision. There are many low vision aids on the market today that can make everyday activities easier.
You can protect your eyesight by being aware of the risks and signs of AMD. Contact your eye doctor to find out more about macular degeneration and low vision.