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The Aging Eye: Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

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

Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the primary causes of vision loss in individuals aged 65 and over. AMD is a condition that causes a breakdown of the macula in the eye which functions to allow sharp vision in the center of your field of view.

Age Related Macular Degeneration Symptoms

Early signs of AMD are usually distorted eyesight and dark spots in the center of vision. Since the loss of vision typically happens at a slow pace and painlessly, signs are sometimes not observed until the disease has progressed. This is why every individual over 65 years of age should be sure to schedule a comprehensive eye examination on a regular basis.

Risk Factors for Age Related Macular Degeneration

A number of risk factors have been determined including Caucasian race, age (over 65), being a smoker, eating an unhealthy diet and family history. Anyone that possesses these risk factors should be sure to have a yearly eye exam. Learning about proper nutrition with your optometrist can also help lower your chances of vision loss.

Dry Macular Degeneration and Wet Macular Degeneration

In general, AMD is typically categorized as either dry or wet. The dry form is more commonplace and is thought to be caused by advanced age and macular tissue thinning or pigment build-up in the macula. The wet form, also known as neovascular age related macular degeneration, is caused from the growth of new blood vessels beneath the retina which leak blood, which destroys the retinal cells and causes blind spots in the central vision. Usually the wet form causes more severe vision loss.

Treatment for AMD

Although there is no cure for AMD, there are treatments that can slow or minimize loss of sight. Depending on whether one has wet or dry AMD the course of treatment may involve dietary supplements, laser surgery or medical injections. In all instances, early detection and treatment is critical. Speak to your optometrist also about devices to help you deal with any loss of sight that has already occurred. Such loss of sight that cannot be corrected by the usual measures such as eyeglasses, contact lenses or surgery is known as low vision. There are a number of low vision aids on the market today that can make everyday activities easier.

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