According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of vision loss in people 50 years or older. Additionally, more than 2.9 million Americans age 40 and older have low vision, which is defined as a visual impairment that is not correctable through surgery, medicine, eye glasses or contact lenses. In an effort to develop a larger understanding of these conditions, the month of February is designated as AMD and Low Vision Awareness month.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology explains that AMD is a problem with your retina, specifically when a part of the retina called the macula is damaged. There are two types of AMD: dry AMD and wet AMD. Dry AMD is the most common—80% of those diagnosed with AMD have the dry form. In this form, parts of the macula grow thin and develop tiny clumps of protein called drusen, causing you to slowly lose central vision. At this time, there is no treatment for dry AMD.
Wet AMD is far less common, but much more serious. In this form, abnormal blood vessels grow under the retina, which may lead them to leak blood or other fluids, which causes scarring of the macula. This form of AMD can progress quickly, causing you to lose your vision faster.
Age: Your age is a major risk factor for AMD. While it is most common in those 50 years or older, it can occur earlier in some people.
Smoking: Research indicates that the risk of AMD can double for those who smoke.
Race: AMD is more commonly found in African-American and Hispanic/Latino communities.
Family History and Genetics: People with a family history of AMD are at higher risk. There are currently several research studies underway to identify genetic components of AMD, but there are no genetic tests that can diagnose AMD or predict with certainty who will develop this condition.
While some risk factors are inherent, there are some lifestyle changes that can help reduce your risk of AMD, or slow progression of the disease in those who are diagnosed. These changes include making healthy choices like avoiding smoking, exercising regularly, maintaining healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and nutrition choices that include leafy green vegetables and fish.
Many people don’t realize they have AMD until their vision is very blurry, so your best key for prevention is to schedule regular visits to your eye doctor. He or she can look for early signs of AMD before you have any vision problems. Call us today to schedule your appointment with one of our experienced eyecare professionals!