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What is Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)?

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

How many individuals are aware that age related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the primary reasons for loss of vision in those aged 65 and above? AMD is characterized by a deterioration of the macula of the retina which is the part of the eye that is responsible for clear central vision.

Signs of AMD

The first warning signs of age related macular degeneration include fuzzy or spots in the central vision. Since the symptoms typically come on gradually and painlessly, signs may not be perceived until more severe vision loss is apparent. This is another reason that every individual over 65 years of age should be sure to schedule a routine eye examination at least annually.

What are the Risk Factors for AMD?

There are some risk factors of developing AMD including Caucasian race, aged over 65, being a cigarette smoker, eating a diet low in nutrients and genetics. For those that are at greater risk, yearly eye exams are crucial. Learning about proper nutrition with your optometrist is also advised.

Wet vs. Dry Macular Degeneration

AMD is divided into two categories, dry and wet. Dry AMD is found more frequently and may be caused by advanced age and thinning of the macular tissues or a build-up of pigment in the macula. Wet macular degeneration, referred to as 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 resulting in blind spots. Usually wet AMD is the more serious of the two.

AMD Treatment

Although there are treatments that can delay the progression of macular degeneration, the disease currently has no cure. The treatment prescribed by your optometrist depends on the type of macular degeneration and may involve laser surgery or medical injections or in some cases, nutritional supplements. In either case, early diagnosis greatly improves the likelihood of successful treatment. Your eye doctor will also be able to recommend devices to help you adapt to any vision loss that has already occurred. Vision loss that is not able to be improved by eyeglasses, contacts or surgery is known as low vision. There are a growing number of low vision aids that can be used today that can help individuals to retain independence in routine activities.

You can save your eyesight by being knowledgeable about the risk factors and signs of AMD. Schedule a visit with your optometrist to learn more about AMD and low vision.