February has been dedicated by Prevent Blindness America to increasing awareness about age related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision.
Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the foremost reasons behind loss of vision in adults aged 65 and above. AMD is a condition that affects the macula of the retina which functions to allow clear vision in the center of your field of view.
Could it be AMD?
The first signs of AMD are often fuzzy or blind spots in the central vision. Since the symptoms typically come on slowly without any pain, symptoms may not be observed until more severe vision loss is apparent. This is another reason that it is crucial to schedule a routine eye examination, particularly once you turn 65.
Risk Factors for Age Related Macular Degeneration
There are a few risk factors of developing AMD including Caucasian race, aged over 65, being a smoker, obesity, high blood pressure and family history. Anyone that is at increased risk should be sure to have an annual eye exam. Discussing proper nutrition with your optometrist is also a good way to protect yourself.
Varieties of AMD
Macular degeneration is divided into two forms, dry and wet. Dry AMD is diagnosed more frequently and may be a result of advanced age and thinning of the macular tissues or pigment build-up in the macula. The wet form, referred to as neovascular age related macular degeneration, is caused when new blood vessels grow under the retina which leak blood and fluid, causing the cells to die and creating blind spots. Usually wet AMD is the more serious of the two.
Although there are treatments that can minimize the vision loss that results from macular degeneration, there is no cure at this time. 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. For any treatment to succeed, early detection greatly improves the chances of successful treatment. An eye doctor may also be able to discuss and prescribe devices to help you adapt to any vision loss that has already occurred. Vision loss that cannot be improved by standard measures such as eyeglasses, contact lenses or surgical procedures is known as low vision. There are a growing number of low vision devices available today to make everyday activities easier.
It's possible to save your vision by being aware of the risk factors and symptoms of AMD. Schedule an appointment with your optometrist to find out more about AMD and low vision.