The American Academy of Ophthalmology has named February “Age-related Macular Degeneration Awareness Month” in an effort to bring more awareness to this common but debilitating eye condition. Keep reading to learn more about Age-Related Macular Degeneration Month and why it’s important!
What is Age-Related Macular Degeneration?
Age-related macular degeneration is an eye condition that is caused by damage to the macula, the small area in the retina that is responsible for central vision. The two most commonly diagnosed types of age-related macular degeneration are dry macular degeneration and wet macular degeneration.
This is the most common type, accounting for about eight-five to ninety percent of cases. It develops when small yellow deposits called drusen form under the macula.
The macula then thins over time and vision loss is usually gradual.
This type accounts for a much smaller percentage of cases but tends to lead to more serious vision loss. It develops when abnormal blood vessels grow under the macula and leak fluid or blood.
This causes rapid damage to the macula. The early stages of AMD often do not have symptoms.
As it advances, blurred central vision is common. AMD is a major cause of irreversible vision impairment and legal blindness in older adults over fifty-five.
Risk factors include age, genetics, smoking, and sun exposure. Early detection and monitoring of AMD progression are important to preserve vision.
What are the Signs of Age-Related Macular Degeneration?
Age-related macular degeneration develops slowly and can take years to seriously impact your vision. Since the macula is responsible for the central vision, the most obvious sign of the condition is impairment to or loss of central vision.
Some of the other signs include:
- Difficulty seeing in low light
- Blurred vision
- Difficulty with close vision
- Visual distortions
- A well-defined blurred or blind spot in the central field of vision
- Impaired night vision
Who is Most at Risk for Developing Age-Related Macular Degeneration?
While it can develop in people with no family history, age-related macular degeneration is often a hereditary condition. It most often develops as you age, primarily affecting the vision of individuals over the age of fifty.
Aside from family history and age, there are other factors that indicate an increased risk of developing age-related macular degeneration. These factors include:
- Smoking: A current smoking habit or a history of smoking can increase the likelihood of developing macular degeneration.
- Chronic Health Conditions: Individuals with high levels of cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes are more likely to develop the disease.
- Gender: More women than men are diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration.
How is Age-Related Macular Degeneration Treated?
Because there is no cure for age-related macular degeneration, treatment options focus on slowing the progression of the disease and preventing further vision impairment. If you have been diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration, your eye doctor may suggest treatments, including nutritional supplements, prescription medications, photodynamic therapy, or laser therapy.
What Can I Do to Prevent Age-Related Macular Degeneration?
If you have a family history of the disease, you may not be able to prevent age-related macular degeneration. Even so, there are things you can do to potentially slow its development, including:
- Consuming a healthy diet that includes colorful fruits, leafy green vegetables, high-quality proteins, and healthy non-saturated fats, like salmon and nuts
- Maintaining a healthy weight and getting regular exercise
- Managing existing medical conditions, particularly heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure
- Scheduling routine eye exams
Take a cue from the American Academy of Ophthalmology and learn more about age-related macular degeneration this February! Because macular degeneration is such a common age-related eye condition, it is important to know all you can in order to protect the quality of your vision!
Do you want to learn more about AMD? Schedule an appointment at Shepherd Eye Center at one of our 5 locations in Las Vegas or Henderson, NV, today!