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Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) Awareness

This month is age related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision month.

Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the leading causes of vision loss in individuals over 65. AMD is characterized by a deterioration of the macula of the retina which functions to allow clear central vision.

What are the Warning Signs of Age Related Macular Degeneration?

Early symptoms of AMD include fuzzy vision and blind spots in the center of vision. Since the symptoms typically come on gradually and painlessly, the effects are often not perceived until more severe vision loss is apparent. This is why every individual over 65 years of age should make sure to have a comprehensive eye exam regularly.

What are the Risk Factors for AMD?

If you are of Caucasian decent, over 65 years of age, a smoker who eats an unhealthy diet or has family members that have had AMD, your chances of developing AMD are increased. If you are at greater risk, annual eye examinations are essential. Consulting with your eye doctor about proper nutrition including green leafy vegetables, antioxidants and omega-3 is also advised.

Dry Macular Degeneration and Wet Macular Degeneration

Generally, macular degeneration is typically diagnosed as either dry or wet. The dry version is more common and may be a result of aging and thinning of the macular tissues or deposits of pigment in the macula. The wet form, referred to as neovascular age related macular degeneration, is caused from the growth of new blood vessels beneath the retina which seep blood, causing the cells to die and creating blind spots. Usually the wet form results in more severe vision loss.

Is There a Cure for Macular Degeneration?

Although there are treatments that can reduce the vision loss that results from macular degeneration, the disease currently has no cure. Depending on whether one has wet or dry macular degeneration the treatment may involve laser surgery or medical injections or in some cases, nutritional supplements. For any treatment to succeed, early detection greatly enhances the likelihood of successful treatment. Speak to your eye doctor also about devices to help you cope with any vision loss that you have already sustained. Vision loss that cannot be corrected by the usual measures such as eyeglasses, contacts or surgery is called low vision. There are quite a few low vision aids available today to help individuals to maintain self-sufficiency in routine activities.

Learn about the risks and symptoms of macular degeneration before it's too late. Visit your optometrist to learn more about macular degeneration and low vision.