February has been dedicated by Prevent Blindness America to increasing consciousness about age related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision.
Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of loss of vision in adults aged 65 and over. AMD is characterized by a deterioration of the macula of the retina which functions to allow sharp central vision.
Early signs of AMD include unclear eyesight and blind spots in the center of vision. Since the symptoms typically come on slowly and painlessly, signs may not be noticed until more severe vision loss is apparent. This is another reason that it is crucial to schedule a routine eye exam, particularly once you turn 65.
What are the Risk Factors for AMD?
A number of risk factors have been determined including Caucasian race, aged over 65, being a smoker, obesity, high blood pressure and genetics. Any individual that possesses the above risk factors should make certain to have an eye exam on a yearly basis. Discussing proper nutrition with your optometrist can also help lower your chances of vision loss.
Dry AMD vs. Wet AMD
While the causes are not known for certain, macular degeneration is typically categorized as either dry or wet. Dry AMD is more commonplace and may be a result of advanced age and thinning of the macular tissues or a build-up of pigment in the macula. The wet form, also called neovascular age related macular degeneration, results when new blood vessels grow under the retina which leak blood and fluid, which destroys the retinal cells and results in blind spots in the central vision. Typically wet macular degeneration leads to more severe vision loss.
Can Macular Degeneration Be Cured?
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 macular degeneration and may involve vitamin supplements, laser surgery or certain medications that stop abnormal blood vessel growth. In either case, early detection and treatment is critical. An optometrist will also be able to discuss and prescribe devices to help you cope with any vision loss that has already occurred. Vision loss that is not able to be improved by standard measures such as glasses, contact lenses or surgical procedures is called low vision. There are a growing number of low vision aids available today that can help individuals to preserve autonomy in daily activities.
You can protect your eyesight by being aware of the risk factors and symptoms of AMD. Don't delay in scheduling your yearly eye exam, especially if you are over the age of 65.