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Risk Factors and Symptoms of Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

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

Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the primary reasons behind loss of vision in individuals aged 65 and above. AMD is characterized by a deterioration of the macula in the eye which is the part of the eye that is responsible for sharp central vision.

Warning Signs of AMD

Early signs of age related macular degeneration include distorted vision and dark spots in the center of vision. Due to the fact that the loss of vision typically occurs slowly without any pain, symptoms are sometimes not perceived until more severe vision loss is apparent. For this reason every individual 65 and over should make sure to have a comprehensive eye exam at least annually.

What are the Risk Factors for AMD?

If you are a Caucasian over the age of 65, a smoker who eats a diet low in nutrients or has a family history of AMD, your chances of getting AMD are higher. If you are at greater risk, annual eye examinations are essential. Consulting with your optometrist 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 lower your risk of developing AMD.

Dry AMD vs. Wet AMD

In general, macular degeneration is usually diagnosed as either wet or dry. The dry version is more commonplace and is thought to be caused by aging and macular tissue thinning or pigment build-up in the macula. Wet macular degeneration, also known as neovascular age related macular degeneration, is caused when new blood vessels grow beneath the retina which leak blood and fluid, which kills the retinal cells and results in blind spots in the central vision. Typically the wet form is the more serious of the two.

Treatment for Macular Degeneration

Although there is no cure for macular degeneration, there are treatments that can delay the progression. The treatment prescribed by your optometrist depends on the type of macular degeneration and may involve vitamin supplements, laser surgery or certain medications that stop abnormal blood vessel growth. In all cases, early detection greatly improves the likelihood of successful treatment. An optometrist will also be able to recommend devices to help you cope with any loss of sight that you have already sustained. Vision loss that is not able to be corrected by the usual measures such as eyeglasses, contact lenses or surgical procedures is called low vision. There are a growing number of low vision aids 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. Don't delay in scheduling an annual eye exam, especially if you are 65 or older.