February is national Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) month, which is a time to remind ourselves about the leading cause of vision loss for people over the age of 50, affecting the eye care of over 15 million adults, at a rate of 200,000 cases a year.
AMD is an incurable disease caused by the central portion of the retina inside the back layer of the eye. The retina’s central portion, called the macula, helps focus central vision in the eye, and impacts our ability to read, drive, recognize faces and see objects in detail.
Dry AMD is the most common form, affecting 90% of people who suffer from it and involving the gradual and persistent deterioration of the macula. Signs include blurred vision and growing blind spots in the middle of the field of vision.
Wet AMD occurs when blood vessels grow under the retina and leak fluid and blood onto the retina, causing visual distortions. With wet AMD, straight lines appear as crooked lines. Wet AMD can progress very rapidly, but can often begin as dry AMD. Laser surgery may be needed to block the growth of abnormal blood vessels.
Risk factors include age, family history of AMD, history of smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and lack of vitamins. Caucasians are more likely to contract AMD than African-Americans or Hispanics.
Although macular degeneration is irreversible, prevention is the best cure. A diet rich in fruits, leafy green vegetables and fish can greatly decrease the risk of AMD. According to the National Eye Institute, high dosage supplements of zinc, beta-carotene and Vitamins C and E can slow progression of both forms of AMD.
Many people don’t realize they have AMD until they experience blurred or distorted vision. Unfortunately, vision lost cannot be regained. That’s why Prevent Blindness America suggests regular dilated eye exams, wearing 99%-100% UV-blocking sunglasses, quitting smoking and wearing goggles to protect against hazardous situations. Healthy habits, and early detection, are the key to enjoying old age without loss of visual acuity.
To schedule an exam to test for AMD or to ask about current symptoms, please contact our eye care professionals at 877-871-1684.
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