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All About Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

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

Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of vision loss in individuals over age 65. AMD is a condition that affects the macula of the retina which is responsible for sharp vision in the center of your field of view.

Indications of AMD

The first warning signs of AMD include distorted eyesight and blind spots in the center of vision. Because the symptoms typically come on gradually without any pain, symptoms are sometimes not observed until more severe vision loss is apparent. For this reason it is very important to have a routine eye examination, especially after the age of 65.

What are the Risk Factors for Age Related Macular Degeneration?

A number of risk factors have been identified including race (Caucasian), aged over 65, smoking and family history. If you are at greater risk, yearly eye exams are crucial. Discussing proper nutritional changes with your eye doctor is also advised.

Two Kinds of AMD

While the causes are not known for certain, macular degeneration is typically categorized as either dry or wet. The dry form is found more often and may be caused by aging and thinning of the macular tissues or a build-up of pigment in the macula. Wet AMD, referred to as neovascular age related macular degeneration, is caused when new blood vessels grow under the retina which leak blood and fluid, which destroys the retinal cells and causes vision loss in the central vision. Typically the wet form results in more severe vision loss.

Is There a Cure for Macular Degeneration?

Although there is no cure for AMD, there are treatments that can delay the progression. The treatment prescribed by your optometrist depends on the type of AMD and may involve nutritional supplements, laser surgery or certain medications that stop abnormal blood vessel growth. For any treatment to succeed, early diagnosis and treatment is essential. An eye doctor may also be able to suggest devices to help you cope with any loss of sight that has already occurred. Vision loss that can't be recovered by the usual measures such as eyeglasses, contacts or surgical procedures is called low vision. There are a growing number of low vision devices available today that can make everyday activities easier.

Learn about the risk factors and signs of macular degeneration before it's too late. Don't delay in scheduling an annual eye exam, especially if you are over the age of 65.

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