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The Aging Eye: Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

February 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 primary reasons behind vision loss in adults over 65. AMD is characterized by a degeneration of the macula in the eye which functions to allow sharp central vision.

What are the Signs of Age Related Macular Degeneration?

Early warning signs of AMD are usually blurriness or spots in the central vision. Since the loss of vision typically occurs at a slow pace and painlessly, the effects are often not perceived until more severe vision loss is apparent. This is why it is very important to book a comprehensive eye examination, particularly once you turn 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 family history. Any individual that possesses these risk factors should make sure to schedule an annual eye exam. Consulting with your eye doctor about proper nutrition including antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids can also help lower your risk of vision loss.

Types of Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration is divided into two categories, dry and wet. The dry version is diagnosed more frequently and is theorized to be caused by advanced age and thinning of the macular tissues or pigment deposits in the macula. Wet AMD, also known as neovascular age related macular degeneration, results when new blood vessels grow beneath the retina which leak blood and fluid, which destroys the retinal cells and results in blind spots in the central vision. Typically the wet form leads to more severe vision loss.

Is There a Cure for AMD?

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 AMD treatment may involve vitamin supplements, laser surgery or medical injections. In either case, early diagnosis and treatment is essential. Your eye doctor will also be able to suggest devices to help you adapt to any vision loss that has already occurred. Such loss of sight that cannot be improved by standard measures such as glasses, contacts or surgical procedures is known as low vision. There are quite a few low vision devices available today to greatly assist in retaining autonomy in routine activities.

It's possible to save your eyesight by being aware of the risks and signs of macular degeneration. Don't delay in scheduling your yearly eye exam, particularly if you are over 65.