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What is Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)?

February has been dedicated by Prevent Blindness America to creating knowledge about age related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision.

How many of us are aware that age related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the primary causes of vision loss in adults aged 65 and above? 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 Warning Signs

The first signs of age related macular degeneration are usually blurriness or blind spots in the central vision. Since the vision loss usually occurs slowly and painlessly, signs may not be perceived until the disease becomes more serious. This is another reason that it is crucial to have a routine eye examination, particularly once you turn 65.

Risk Factors for AMD

If you are of Caucasian decent, over 65 years of age, who smokes, consumes an unhealthy diet or has a family history of AMD, you are at increased risk of developing the disease. Any individual that is at increased risk should be certain to schedule an eye exam on a yearly basis. Discussing proper nutrition with your eye doctor is also advised.

Dry AMD and Wet AMD

AMD is divided into two categories, dry and wet. Dry macular degeneration is diagnosed more often and is thought to be a result of advanced age and thinning of the macular tissues or a build-up of pigment in the macula. The wet form, also known as neovascular age related macular degeneration, results 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. Often the wet form is the more serious of the two.

Treatment for Macular Degeneration

While there are treatments that can minimize the vision loss that results from macular degeneration, the disease currently has no cure. Depending on the type of macular degeneration treatment may involve dietary supplements, laser surgery or medical injections. In all cases, early diagnosis and treatment is critical. Speak to your optometrist also about devices to help you deal with any visual difficulty that you have already sustained. Such loss of sight that cannot be recovered by eyeglasses, contacts or surgical procedures is known as low vision. There are a growing number of low vision devices on the market today to make everyday activities easier.

It's possible to protect your eyesight by being knowledgeable about the risks and signs of macular degeneration. Don't delay in scheduling your yearly eye exam, especially if you are 65 or older.