February has been dedicated by Prevent Blindness America to spreading awareness about age related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision.
Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is a foremost cause of loss of vision in individuals over the age of 65. AMD is characterized by a deterioration of the macula of the retina which functions to allow clear central vision.
Could it be Age Related Macular Degeneration?
The first signs of age related macular degeneration are often distorted eyesight and blind spots in the center of vision. Due to the fact that the vision loss usually happens gradually and painlessly, the effects may not be detected until the disease becomes more serious. This is another reason that it is very important to book a comprehensive eye exam, especially after the age of 65.
Risk Factors for AMD
There are some risk factors of developing AMD including being Caucasian, being over the age of 65, being a smoker, obesity, high blood pressure and genetics. Anyone that is at increased risk should be certain to have a yearly eye exam. Consulting with your optometrist about proper nutrition which includes vitamins such as C, E, A, and zinc, which are all antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, is also advised.
Dry AMD and Wet AMD
Macular degeneration is divided into two categories, dry and wet. The dry version is more commonplace and may be caused by aging and thinning of the macular tissues or pigment build-up in the macula. Wet macular degeneration, also known as neovascular age related macular degeneration, is caused from the growth of new blood vessels under the retina which seep blood, causing the cells to die and creating blind spots. Usually the wet form causes more severe vision loss.
Although there isn’t a cure for macular degeneration, there are treatments that can slow or minimize vision loss. The treatment prescribed by your optometrist is dependent on the type of macular degeneration and may involve laser surgery or medical injections or in some cases, nutritional supplements. For any treatment to succeed, early diagnosis and treatment is essential. Speak to your optometrist also about devices to help you cope with any loss of sight that has already occurred. Vision loss that is not able to be corrected by standard measures such as glasses, contacts or surgical procedures is called low vision. There are a growing number of low vision aids that can be used today to make everyday activities easier.
It's possible to save your eyesight by being aware of the risk factors and signs of AMD. Schedule an appointment with your eye doctor to learn more about AMD and low vision.