February is age related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision recognition month.
Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the foremost causes of vision loss in those aged 65 and over. AMD is a condition that causes a breakdown of the macula of the retina which is the part of the eye that is responsible for clear vision in the center of your field of view.
Symptoms of Age Related Macular Degeneration
The first signs of AMD are usually distorted vision or blind spots in the central vision. Due to the fact that the loss of vision usually occurs slowly without any pain, the effects may not be perceived until the disease has reached a later stage. This is another reason that every individual over 65 years of age should make sure to schedule a routine eye examination on a regular basis.
Risk Factors for Age Related Macular Degeneration
If you are a Caucasian over the age of 65, a smoker who is obese and has high blood pressure or has a family history of AMD, you are at greater risk of developing the disease. Anyone that is at increased risk should make sure to schedule an eye exam on a yearly basis. Speaking to your optometrist about proper nutrition including vitamins such as C, E, A, and zinc, which are all antioxidants, and omega-3, is also advised.
Wet vs. Dry Macular Degeneration
AMD is divided into two forms, dry and wet. The dry form is diagnosed more often and may be a result of advanced age and macular tissue thinning or pigment build-up in the macula. The wet form, referred to as neovascular age related macular degeneration, is caused from the growth of new blood vessels beneath the retina which leak blood and fluid, which destroys the retinal cells and results in vision loss in the central vision. Usually the wet form is the more serious of the two.
Macular Degeneration Treatment
While there are treatments that can minimize the vision loss that results from AMD, there is currently no cure for the disease. Depending on the type of macular degeneration the course of treatment may involve vitamin supplements, laser surgery or medical injections. For any treatment to succeed, early detection greatly improves the likelihood of successful treatment. Speak to your optometrist also about devices to help you cope with any visual difficulty that you have already sustained. Such loss of sight that cannot be recovered by eyeglasses, contact lenses or surgery is called low vision. There are quite a few low vision devices on the market today to make everyday activities easier.
Learn about the risk factors and symptoms of AMD before it's too late. Don't delay in scheduling an annual eye exam, particularly if you are over 65.