February is age related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision awareness month.
How many individuals are aware that age related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading culprit for loss of vision in those over age 65? AMD is characterized by a deterioration of the macula in the eye which functions to allow sharp vision in the center of your field of view.
Age Related Macular Degeneration Warning Signs
The first symptoms of AMD are often blurriness or spots in the central vision. Since the symptoms typically come on slowly and painlessly, signs may not be observed until more severe vision loss is apparent. This is another reason that every individual over 65 years of age should make sure to schedule a routine eye exam regularly.
AMD Risk Factors
A number of risk factors have been identified including Caucasian race, age (over 65), being a smoker, eating a diet low in nutrients and genetics. Any individual that possesses these risk factors should be certain to schedule an eye exam on a yearly basis. Learning about proper nutritional changes with your eye doctor can also help lower your chances of developing AMD.
Dry Macular Degeneration and Wet Macular Degeneration
In general, AMD is typically diagnosed as either dry or wet. The dry version is more commonplace and may be a result of aging and thinning of the macular tissues or pigment build-up in the macula. The wet form, referred to as neovascular age related macular degeneration, is caused when new blood vessels grow under the retina which seep blood, causing the cells to die and creating blind spots. Usually wet macular degeneration is the more serious of the two.
While there are treatments that can delay the progression of macular degeneration, there is currently no cure for the disease. Depending on whether one has dry or wet AMD the treatment may involve laser surgery or medications to stop blood vessel growth or in some cases, nutritional supplements. In all instances, early diagnosis greatly improves the likelihood of successful treatment. An optometrist may also be able to discuss and prescribe devices to help you adapt to any visual difficulty that you have already sustained. Such loss of sight that can't be recovered by the usual measures such as glasses, contacts or surgery is called low vision. There are many low vision devices that can be used today that can make everyday activities easier.
Learn about the risks and signs of macular degeneration before it's too late. Schedule an appointment with your optometrist to find out more about macular degeneration and low vision.