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Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) Awareness

February has been dedicated by Prevent Blindness America to spreading knowledge about age related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision.

Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the primary causes of vision loss in adults over 65. AMD is characterized by a deterioration of the macula of the retina which is responsible for sharp vision in the center of your field of view.

Could it be AMD?

The first symptoms of AMD include blurriness or dark spots in the central vision. Because the vision loss usually happens gradually without any pain, signs may not be detected until the disease has reached a later stage. For this reason every individual over 65 years of age should be sure to schedule a routine eye exam regularly.

Risk Factors for AMD

If you are a Caucasian over the age of 65, who smokes, is obese and has high blood pressure or has family members that have had AMD, you are at greater risk of developing the disease. If you are at greater risk, yearly eye examinations are a must. Speaking to your eye doctor about proper nutrition which includes green leafy vegetables, vitamins such as C, E, Beta-carotene (Vitamin A), and zinc, which are all antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids, can also help reduce your risk of vision loss.

Wet vs. Dry Macular Degeneration

AMD is divided into two forms, wet or dry. The dry form is more commonplace and is thought to be a result of advanced age and macular tissue thinning or a build-up of pigment in the macula. Wet macular degeneration, referred to as neovascular age related macular degeneration, is caused when new blood vessels grow beneath the retina which seep blood and fluid, which destroys the retinal cells and causes blind spots in the central vision. Typically the wet form is the more serious of the two.

Is There a Cure for Macular Degeneration?

Although there is no cure for macular degeneration, there are treatments that can delay the progression. Depending on whether one has dry or wet AMD the course of treatment may involve nutritional supplements, laser surgery or medical injections. For any treatment to succeed, early detection and treatment is critical. An eye doctor will also be able to suggest devices to help you deal with any loss of sight that has already occurred. Such loss of sight that is not able to be improved by standard measures such as eyeglasses, contact lenses or surgical procedures is called low vision. There are quite a few low vision devices that can be used today that can make everyday activities easier.

Learn about the risk factors and symptoms of macular degeneration before it's too late. Visit your optometrist to find out more about AMD and low vision.