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Be Knowledgeable About Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

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

Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is a primary cause of vision loss in those aged 65 and over. AMD is a condition that causes a breakdown of the macula in the eye which functions to allow clear central vision.

AMD Signs

The first symptoms of age related macular degeneration are usually blurriness or spots in the central vision. Because the loss of vision usually happens slowly without any pain, symptoms may not be perceived until the disease becomes more serious. Early signs of macular degeneration can be detected during a routine yearly eye exam long before any symptoms occur even in patients as young as 40. Small white spots on the retina called drusen may be seen indicating a higher risk of developing AMD. With the addition of the new technology Ocular Coherence Tomography which gives your doctor a view into the retina additional drusen may be identified over those which can bee seen simply by looking at the retina. Everyone should have a comprehensive yearly eye exam.

AMD Risk Factors

There are certain risk factors for developing AMD including race (Caucasian), age being a cigarette smoker, obesity, high blood pressure, poor diet and lack of exercise and genetics.  As part of your yearly eye exam your doctor will counsel you on your risks, proper nutrition, including antioxidants and omega-3s and soon even perform genetic testing to determine your level of risk.

Wet and Dry Macular Degeneration

AMD is divided into two categories, dry and wet. The dry version is more common and is thought to be a result of aging and thinning of the macular tissues or pigment buildup in the macula. Wet macular degeneration, also called neovascular age related macular degeneration, results from the growth of new blood vessels under the retina which seep blood and fluid, causing the cells to die and creating blind spots. Typically wet AMD is the more serious of the two, though even dry AMD can be cause severe loss of central vision.

Is There a Cure for AMD?

While there are treatments that can delay the progression of macular degeneration, the disease currently has no cure. Depending on the type of AMD the course of treatment may involve laser surgery or medications to stop blood vessel growth. In most cases nutritional supplements are recommended. For any treatment to succeed, early detection greatly enhances the likelihood of successful treatment. Your doctor may also be able to suggest devices to help you deal with any visual difficulty that has already occurred. Such loss of sight that cannot be recovered by glasses, contacts or surgical procedures is called low vision. There are many low vision aids that can be used today to make everyday activities easier such as magnifiers, closed circuit television, computer applications and telescopesr.

Learn about the risks and symptoms of AMD before it's too late. Don't delay in scheduling your annual eye exam.