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The Aging Eye: 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 foremost reasons behind loss of vision in individuals over 65. AMD is characterized by a deterioration of the macula in the eye which functions to allow sharp central vision.

Could it be Age Related Macular Degeneration?

The first warning signs of AMD are often blurriness or dark spots in the central vision. Because the vision loss typically occurs gradually without any pain, the effects may not be detected until more severe vision loss is apparent. This is why it is very important to book a routine eye examination, particularly after the age of 65.

What are the Risk Factors for AMD?

A number of risk factors have been identified including being Caucasian, being over the age of 65, being a smoker, eating an unhealthy diet and genetics. If you are categorized as being at greater risk, yearly eye examinations are a must. Learning about proper nutrition with your eye doctor is also a good way to protect yourself.

Wet and Dry AMD

In general, macular degeneration is usually categorized as either wet or dry. Dry macular degeneration is more commonplace and is thought to be a result of aging and thinning of the macular tissues or deposits 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, which kills the retinal cells and causes vision loss in the central vision. Usually wet macular degeneration is the more serious of the two.

Macular Degeneration Treatment

While there are treatments that can reduce the loss of sight that results from macular degeneration, the disease currently has no cure. Depending on the type of macular degeneration the course of treatment may involve dietary supplements, laser surgery or medical injections. In all instances, early detection greatly improves the chances of successful treatment. Speak to your optometrist 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 the usual measures such as glasses, contacts or surgery is called low vision. There are a growing number of low vision aids that can be used today that can greatly assist in maintaining autonomy in daily activities.

It's possible to save your eyesight by being aware of the risks and signs of AMD. Schedule an appointment with your optometrist to learn more about macular degeneration and low vision.