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What is Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)?

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

How many individuals are aware that age related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the foremost causes of vision loss in individuals aged 65 and above? AMD is characterized by a degeneration of the macula of the retina which functions to allow clear vision in the center of your field of view.

AMD Symptoms

The first symptoms of age related macular degeneration are often blurred vision and spots in the center of vision. Since the symptoms typically come on at a slow pace without any pain, the effects may not be perceived until more severe vision loss is apparent. For this reason it is crucial to have a comprehensive eye exam, particularly once you turn 65.

AMD Risk Factors

A number of risk factors have been determined including Caucasian race, age (over 65), smoking and family history. For those that have a number of these risk factors, yearly eye exams are essential. Speaking to your eye doctor about proper nutrition which includes green leafy vegetables, vitamins such as C, E, Beta-carotene (Vitamin A), and zinc, which are all antioxidants, and omega-3, can also help lower your chances of vision loss.

Varieties of Macular Degeneration

Generally, AMD is usually categorized as either wet or dry. Dry AMD is more common and may be caused by advanced age and macular tissue thinning or a build-up of pigment in the macula. The wet form, also called neovascular age related macular degeneration, is caused when new blood vessels grow under the retina which seep blood and fluid, causing the cells to die and creating blind spots. Usually the wet form results in more severe vision loss.

Is There Treatment for AMD?

While 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 AMD the treatment may involve dietary supplements, laser surgery or medical injections. In either case, early diagnosis greatly enhances the likelihood of successful treatment. Speak to your eye doctor also about devices to help you cope with any visual difficulty that has already occurred. Vision loss that is not able to be improved by standard measures such as glasses, contact lenses or surgical procedures is known as low vision. There are a number of low vision aids available today that can greatly assist in maintaining self-sufficiency in daily activities.

Learn about the risks and symptoms of AMD before it's too late. Contact your eye doctor to find out more about macular degeneration and low vision.