February is age related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision month.
Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is a foremost cause of vision loss in adults aged 65 and above. AMD is characterized by a degeneration of the macula in the eye which is the part of the eye that is responsible for sharp vision in the center of your field of view.
Signs of AMD
The first symptoms of age related macular degeneration include unclear vision and spots in the center of vision. Because the loss of vision typically occurs gradually and painlessly, the effects are sometimes not noticed until the disease has reached a later stage. This is another reason that it is crucial to have a comprehensive eye exam, particularly once you turn 65.
Age Related Macular Degeneration Risk Factors
If you are of Caucasian decent, over the age of 65, who smokes, is obese and has high blood pressure or has family members that have had AMD, your chances of getting AMD are greater. Anyone that is at increased risk should make sure to schedule an eye exam on a yearly basis. Consulting with your optometrist about proper nutrition including green leafy vegetables, antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids can also help lower your chances of vision loss.
Two Kinds of Macular Degeneration
AMD is divided into two categories, wet or dry. Dry macular degeneration is more commonplace and may be caused by advanced age and thinning of the macular tissues or deposits of pigment in the macula. Wet AMD, referred to as neovascular age related macular degeneration, is caused from the growth of new blood vessels beneath the retina which seep blood, which destroys the retinal cells and results in vision loss in the central vision. Typically wet AMD results in more severe vision loss.
Can Macular Degeneration Be Cured?
While there are treatments that can minimize the vision loss that results from AMD, the disease currently has no cure. The treatment prescribed by your optometrist is dependent on the type of macular degeneration and may involve laser surgery or medical injections or in some cases, vitamin supplements. In any case, early diagnosis and treatment is critical. Speak to your optometrist also about devices to help you deal with any vision loss that you have already sustained. Such loss of sight that cannot be corrected by the usual measures such as eyeglasses, contacts or surgery is known as low vision. There are a growing number of low vision devices that can be used today that can make everyday activities easier.
You can save your vision by being aware of the risk factors and signs of macular degeneration. Don't delay in scheduling your yearly eye exam, particularly if you are over 65.