February has been dedicated by Prevent Blindness America to increasing consciousness about age related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision.
Did you know that age related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of loss of vision in adults aged 65 and over? AMD is a condition that affects the macula in the eye which functions to allow clear vision in the center of your field of view.
What are the Signs of Age Related Macular Degeneration?
The first signs of age related macular degeneration are usually fuzzy vision and dark spots in the center of vision. Because the symptoms typically come on gradually without any pain, symptoms may not be noticed until more severe vision loss is apparent. For this reason every individual 65 and over should be sure to schedule a routine eye examination regularly.
Risk Factors for Age Related Macular Degeneration
If you are a Caucasian over 65 years of age, who smokes, is obese and has high blood pressure or has a family history of AMD, you are at higher risk of developing the condition. Anyone that possesses the above risk factors should make sure to schedule an eye exam on a yearly basis. Consulting with your optometrist about proper nutrition which includes vitamins such as C, E, A, and zinc, which are all antioxidants, and omega-3, is also advised.
Dry Macular Degeneration vs. Wet Macular Degeneration
Macular degeneration is divided into two forms, wet or dry. The dry form is found more frequently and may be caused by advanced age and macular tissue thinning or pigment build-up 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 seep blood and fluid, which destroys the retinal cells and results in blind spots in the central vision. Typically wet AMD is the more serious of the two.
Is There Treatment for Macular Degeneration?
While there are treatments that can delay the progression of macular degeneration, there is currently no cure for the disease. The treatment prescribed by your optometrist is dependent on the type of AMD and may involve laser surgery or medications to stop blood vessel growth or in some cases, dietary supplements. In all cases, early detection greatly improves the chances of successful treatment. Your eye doctor may also be able to recommend devices to help you cope with any visual difficulty that has already occurred. Such loss of sight that cannot be corrected by eyeglasses, contacts or surgical procedures is called low vision. There are quite a few low vision aids available today that can make everyday activities easier.
You can protect your eyesight by being knowledgeable about the risk factors and symptoms of AMD. Don't delay in scheduling an annual eye exam, especially if you are 65 or older.