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What is Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)?

This month has been dedicated by Prevent Blindness America to raise awareness about age related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision.

Are you aware that age related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the primary reasons for vision loss in those aged 65 and over? AMD is characterized by a degeneration of the macula in the eye which functions to allow sharp central vision.

Indications of AMD

The first warning signs of AMD include blurriness or blind spots in the central vision. Due to the fact that the symptoms typically come on slowly and painlessly, signs may not be detected until the disease has progressed. This is why it is very important to book a routine eye examination, particularly after the age of 65.

AMD Risk Factors

A number of risk factors have been determined including being Caucasian, age (over 65), being a cigarette smoker, obesity, high blood pressure and family history. Anyone that possesses these risk factors should make sure to have an eye exam on a yearly basis. Consulting with your eye doctor 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, can also help reduce your chances of developing AMD.

Dry Macular Degeneration and Wet Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration is divided into two categories, dry and wet. The dry version is found more often and may be a result of advanced age and macular tissue thinning or pigment build-up in the macula. The wet form, also called neovascular age related macular degeneration, results when new blood vessels grow beneath the retina which seep blood, which destroys the retinal cells and results in vision loss in the central vision. Usually the wet form is the more serious of the two.

Treatment for Macular Degeneration

Although there is no cure for macular degeneration, certain treatments exist that can delay the progression. The treatment prescribed by your optometrist depends on the type of AMD and may involve laser surgery or medications to stop blood vessel growth or in some cases, nutritional supplements. For any treatment to succeed, early diagnosis greatly improves the likelihood of successful treatment. Speak to your eye doctor also about devices to help you adapt to any loss of sight that has already occurred. Such loss of sight that cannot be recovered by standard measures such as eyeglasses, contacts or surgery is called low vision. There are quite a few low vision devices available today that can greatly assist in maintaining autonomy in routine activities.

Learn about the risks and signs of AMD before it's too late. Visit your eye doctor to find out more about macular degeneration and low vision.