This month has been designated by Prevent Blindness America to spreading awareness about age related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision.
Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the leading causes of vision loss in individuals over age 65. AMD is characterized by a degeneration of the macula of the retina which is the part of the eye that is responsible for clear vision in the center of your field of view.
AMD Warning Signs
The first symptoms of AMD are often unclear eyesight and spots in the center of vision. Because the vision loss usually occurs gradually without any pain, the effects may not be perceived until more severe vision loss is apparent. This is another reason that every individual 65 and over should make sure to schedule a comprehensive eye exam regularly.
Risk Factors for Age Related Macular Degeneration
A number of risk factors have been determined including race (Caucasian), aged over 65, smoking and genetics. Anyone that possesses the above risk factors should make sure to have a yearly eye exam. Discussing proper nutrition with your optometrist is also advised.
Varieties of Macular Degeneration
While the causes are not known for certain, AMD is usually categorized as either dry or wet. Dry AMD is more common and is theorized to be caused by aging and thinning of the macular tissues or deposits of pigment in the macula. The wet form, also called neovascular age related macular degeneration, results from the growth of new blood vessels under the retina which leak blood and fluid, which kills the retinal cells and causes blind spots in the central vision. Typically wet macular degeneration is the more serious of the two.
Is There a Cure for AMD?
While there are treatments that can delay the progression of AMD, the disease currently has no cure. The treatment prescribed by your optometrist is dependent on the type of AMD and may involve laser surgery or medical injections or in some cases, vitamin supplements. In all instances, early detection and treatment is essential. Speak to your optometrist also about devices to help you cope with any loss of sight that has already occurred. Such loss of sight that is not able to be recovered by standard measures such as eyeglasses, contact lenses or surgery is called low vision. There are a growing number of low vision devices that can be used today to make everyday activities easier.
You can save your vision by being knowledgeable about the risk factors and signs of macular degeneration. Don't delay in scheduling an annual eye exam, particularly if you are over the age of 65.