February has been designated by Prevent Blindness America to creating knowledge about age related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision.
Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the leading causes of vision loss in adults over the age of 65. AMD is a condition that affects the macula of the retina which is the part of the eye that is responsible for clear central vision.
Age Related Macular Degeneration Indications
Early symptoms of AMD are often blurriness or spots in the central vision. Since the loss of vision typically happens gradually without any pain, symptoms may not be observed until more severe vision loss is apparent. This is why every individual over 65 years of age should be sure to have a comprehensive eye examination regularly.
Age Related Macular Degeneration Risk Factors
A number of risk factors have been identified including race (Caucasian), being over the age of 65, smoking and genetics. If you are categorized as being at greater risk, annual eye exams are essential. Consulting with your optometrist 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 advised.
Dry Macular Degeneration vs. Wet Macular Degeneration
While the causes are not known for certain, macular degeneration is usually diagnosed as either dry or wet. Dry macular degeneration is more common and is theorized to be caused by advanced age 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 leak blood and fluid, which destroys the retinal cells and causes blind spots in the central vision. Usually wet macular degeneration leads to more severe vision loss.
Treatment for Macular Degeneration
Although there isn’t a cure for macular degeneration, there are treatments that can reduce loss of vision. The treatment prescribed by your optometrist is dependent on the type of AMD and may involve nutritional supplements, laser surgery or medical injections. In all instances, early diagnosis and treatment is essential. Your eye doctor may also be able to recommend devices to help you cope with any visual difficulty that has already occurred. Vision loss that cannot be corrected by the usual measures such as eyeglasses, contacts or surgical procedures is known as low vision. There are a number of low vision aids on the market today that can make everyday activities easier.
Learn about the risk factors and signs of macular degeneration before it's too late. Don't delay in scheduling an annual eye exam, especially if you are over the age of 65.