09 Aug Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration, also referred to as AMD, is a common eye condition and a leading cause of vision loss in older adults. The disease causes damage to a part of the eye called the macula–a small spot near the center of the retina. Essential for sharp, central vision, the macular enables us to see objects that are straight ahead.
There are two types of AMD: dry and wet. The dry form causes yellow deposits, called duress, in the macula. Most patients with AMD have the dry form of the disease. A small percentage may go on to develop the wet form. In wet AMD, there is a growth of abnormal blood vessels from the choroid underneath the macula. These abnormal blood vessels leak blood and fluid into the retina, causing loss of vision. About 10 – 15% of people with AMD develop the wet form, however, this type accounts for the most significant vision loss from the disease.
The American Optometric Association recommends annual eye exams for everyone over the age of 60, regardless of risk factors. Macular degeneration can only be diagnosed with a complete eye exam, in which your eyes are dilated. Since there are often no symptoms in the early and middle stages of AMD, it is important to see an eye care professional yearly. While there is no cure for AMD, early treatment may slow the progression of the disease.
- Over the age of 60. Although AMD can occur earlier, it is most likely to happen in people over the age of 60.
- Race. AMD is more common among Caucasian populations than African-Americans or Hispanics.
- Family History and Genetics. If you have a family member with AMD, you may be at a higher risk.
- Lifestyle. Researchers have found direct links between lifestyle choices and the risk of developing AMD. For example, smoking doubles the risk. It is also important to exercise regularly, maintain normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels, eat a healthy diet rich in green, leafy vegetables and fish, and keep a healthy weight.
Living with AMD
Age-related macular degeneration does not cause total blindness, but patients with the condition experience significant vision loss. In some people, AMD comes on slowly and vision may not be affected for a long period of time. In other cases, AMD can progress quickly causing vision loss in one or both eyes in a short time frame. According to the National Eye Institute, a number of techniques and devices are available to help cope with the daily tasks of life. They include:
- Reading glasses with high-powered lenses;
- Handheld magnifiers;
- Video magnifiers;
- Computers with large-print and speech-output systems;
- Large-print reading materials;
- Talking watches, clocks, and calculators;
- Computer aids and other technologies, such as a closed-circuit television, which uses a camera and television to enlarge printed text.