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What is Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)?

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

Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the foremost causes of vision loss in those over the age of 65. AMD is a condition that affects the macula of the retina which functions to allow clear central vision.

Indications of Age Related Macular Degeneration

Early symptoms of AMD are usually blurred eyesight and dark spots in the center of vision. Because the vision loss typically happens gradually without any pain, symptoms may not be observed until the disease has reached a later stage. This is another reason that it is crucial to have a comprehensive eye examination, especially after the age of 65.

AMD Risk Factors

If you are a Caucasian over the age of 65, who smokes, is obese and has high blood pressure or has a family history of AMD, your chances of getting AMD are increased. For those that are at greater risk, yearly eye examinations are a must. Speaking to your optometrist about proper nutrition including antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids can also help lower your chances of developing AMD.

Dry AMD and Wet AMD

Generally, AMD is usually diagnosed as either dry or wet. Dry AMD is more common and is thought to be caused by aging and macular tissue thinning or a build-up of pigment in the macula. The wet form, referred to as neovascular age related macular degeneration, is caused when new blood vessels grow beneath the retina which leak blood and fluid, killing the cells and creating blind spots. Typically wet AMD is the more serious of the two.

Treatment for AMD

Although there isn’t a cure for AMD, there are treatments that can reduce loss of sight. Depending on whether one has dry or wet AMD the course of treatment may involve vitamin supplements, laser surgery or certain medications that stop abnormal blood vessel growth. For any treatment to succeed, early detection and treatment is essential. Speak to your eye doctor also about devices to help you cope with any vision loss that you have already sustained. Such loss of sight that can’t be recovered by standard measures such as eyeglasses, contacts or surgical procedures is called low vision. There are a growing number of low vision aids on the market today that can help individuals to maintain autonomy in routine activities.

Learn about the risk factors and symptoms of macular degeneration before it’s too late. Visit your eye doctor to find out more about macular degeneration and low vision.