February is age related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision awareness month.
Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the leading causes of loss of vision in adults over age 65. AMD is a condition that causes a breakdown of the macula in the eye which is responsible for sharp vision in the center of your field of view.
Age Related Macular Degeneration Symptoms
The first warning signs of age related macular degeneration are usually blurriness or blind spots in the central vision. Since the symptoms typically come on slowly and painlessly, the effects are sometimes not noticed until the disease has reached a later stage. This is why it is crucial to schedule a routine eye exam, particularly once you turn 65.
Risk Factors for Age Related Macular Degeneration
There are a number of factors that put you at greater risk of developing AMD including race (Caucasian), being over the age of 65, smoking and family history. If you are categorized as being at greater risk, annual eye examinations are a must. Consulting with your eye doctor about proper nutrition which includes green leafy vegetables, antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids can also help lower your risk of vision loss.
Types of AMD
AMD is divided into two categories, wet or dry. Dry macular degeneration is found more often 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, results from the growth of new blood vessels beneath the retina which seep blood and fluid, which destroys the retinal cells and results in blind spots in the central vision. Often wet macular degeneration is the more serious of the two.
Treatment for Macular Degeneration
Although there isn’t a cure for AMD, there are treatments that can delay the progression. Depending on the type of AMD treatment may involve dietary supplements, laser surgery or medical injections. In any case, early diagnosis greatly improves the chances of successful treatment. Speak to your eye doctor also about devices to help you adapt to any vision loss that you have already sustained. Such loss of sight that can't be improved by eyeglasses, contact lenses or surgical procedures is known as low vision. There are a number of low vision aids available today to greatly assist in retaining self-sufficiency in daily activities.
Learn about the risks and symptoms of macular degeneration before it's too late. Visit your optometrist to find out more about macular degeneration and low vision.