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The Aging Eye: Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

This month has been dedicated by Prevent Blindness America to spreading awareness about age related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision.

Did you know that age related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading culprit for loss of vision in individuals over 65? AMD is characterized by a degeneration of the macula of the retina which functions to allow sharp central vision.

AMD Symptoms

The first symptoms of AMD are often unclear vision and dark spots in the center of vision. Since the vision loss usually occurs gradually without any pain, symptoms may not be detected until more severe vision loss is apparent. For this reason it is crucial to schedule a comprehensive eye examination, especially after the age of 65.

Risk Factors for AMD

There are some risk factors of developing AMD including race (Caucasian), age (over 65), smoking and genetics. If you are at greater risk, yearly eye examinations are a must. Discussing proper nutritional changes with your optometrist can also help lower your risk of developing AMD.

Dry Macular Degeneration and Wet Macular Degeneration

In general, AMD is typically categorized as either wet or dry. The dry form is found more frequently and is theorized to be a result of advanced age and macular tissue thinning or pigment deposits in the macula. Wet AMD, referred to as neovascular age related macular degeneration, is caused from the growth of new blood vessels beneath the retina which seep blood and fluid, which destroys the retinal cells and causes vision loss in the central vision. Typically the wet form causes more serious vision loss.

Treatment for Macular Degeneration

While there is no cure for macular degeneration, there are treatments that can halt or minimize vision loss. Depending on whether one has wet or dry macular degeneration the treatment may involve vitamin supplements, laser surgery or certain medications that stop abnormal blood vessel growth. In either case, early detection and treatment is essential. Speak to your eye doctor also about devices to help you deal with any vision loss that you have already sustained. Vision loss that can't be improved by the usual measures such as glasses, contact lenses or surgical procedures is known as low vision. There are a growing number of low vision devices that can be used today that can make everyday activities easier.

It's possible to protect your vision by being aware of the risks and symptoms of AMD. Contact your optometrist to learn more about macular degeneration and low vision.

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