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What is Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)?

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

How many of us are aware that age related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the primary causes of loss of vision in adults over 65? AMD is a condition that causes a breakdown of the macula of the retina which is responsible for clear vision in the center of your field of view.

What are the Signs of Age Related Macular Degeneration?

Early symptoms of age related macular degeneration are usually distorted vision and dark spots in the center of vision. Due to the fact that the vision loss typically occurs at a slow pace and painlessly, the effects are sometimes not perceived until the disease has progressed. This is why it is crucial to schedule a routine eye exam, particularly after the age of 65.

Age Related Macular Degeneration Risk Factors

If you are a Caucasian over the age of 65, a smoker who consumes a diet low in nutrients or has a family history of AMD, your chances of getting AMD are higher. Any individual that is at increased risk should be certain to have an eye exam on a yearly basis. Learning about proper nutrition with your optometrist is also a good way to protect yourself.

Wet vs. Dry AMD

AMD is divided into two forms, dry and wet. Dry AMD is found more frequently and is thought to 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, results from the growth of new blood vessels beneath the retina which leak blood, which destroys the retinal cells and results in blind spots in the central vision. Often the wet form is the more serious of the two.

Can Macular Degeneration Be Cured?

Although there are treatments that can delay the progression of AMD, there is no cure at this time. Depending on whether one has wet or dry macular degeneration the treatment may involve vitamin supplements, laser surgery or medical injections. For any treatment to succeed, early detection and treatment is essential. An eye doctor will also be able to recommend devices to help you cope with any vision loss that has already occurred. Vision loss that can't be improved by the usual measures such as glasses, contacts or surgery is called low vision. There are a number of low vision devices available today to make everyday activities easier.

You can protect your vision by being knowledgeable about the risk factors and signs of AMD. Don't delay in scheduling an annual eye exam, especially if you are over the age of 65.