Macular Degeneration Overview
Macular Degeneration, which is also known as Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD), because it is usually associated with aging, is a leading cause of vision loss in adults aged 50 and older. The disease is characterized by a gradual loss of central vision and can occur in one eye or both eyes simultaneously.
Macular Degeneration is a disease that damages the macula, which is the center of the retina responsible for sharp visual acuity in the central field of vision. The breakdown of the macula eventually results in the loss of central vision and the ability to see fine details. While AMD doesn’t result in complete blindness, the quality of vision is severely compromised leading to what we refer to as “low vision”.
The loss of central vision can interfere with the performance of everyday tasks such as driving, reading, writing, cooking, or even recognizing faces of friends and family. The good news is, there are many low vision aides on the market now that can assist in helping you to perform these tasks.
Wet and Dry AMD
There are two types of AMD, wet and dry.
Dry AMD is the most common form of the disease. It is characterized by blurred central vision or blind spots, as the macula begins to deteriorate. Dry AMD is less severe than the wet form, but can progress to wet AMD rapidly.
Wet AMD is when abnormal blood vessels begin to grow under the retina and leak fluid and blood into the macula, causing distortions in vision. Wet AMD can cause permanent scarring if not treated quickly, so any sudden blur in vision should be assessed immediately, especially if one is aware that they have AMD.
Are You at Risk?
Awareness about the disease, the risk factors and prevention are critical, even for younger generations because taking care of your eyes while you are young will help to reduce the risks later on in life.
The biggest risk factor for AMD is age. Individuals over 60 are most likely to develop the disease however it can occur earlier. Additional risk factors include:
- Smoking: According to research smoking can double the risk of AMD.
- Genetics and Family History: If AMD runs in your family you are at a higher risk. Scientists have also identified a number of particular genes that are associated with the disease.
- Race: Caucasians are more likely to have AMD than those from Hispanic or African-American descent.
- Lifestyle: Obesity, high cholesterol or blood pressure, poor nutrition and inactivity all contribute to the likelihood of getting AMD.
Prevention of AMD
If you have risk factors, here is what you can do to prevent or slow the progression of AMD:
- Regular eye exams; once a year especially if you are 50 or over.
- Stop smoking.
- Know your family history and inform your eye doctor.
- Proper nutrition and regular exercise: Research indicates that a healthy diet rich in “Eyefoods” with key nutrients for the eyes such as orange peppers, kale and spinach as well as regular exercise may reduce your risks or slow the progression of AMD.
- Maintain healthy cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
- Dietary supplements: Studies by the National Eye Institute called AREDs and ARED2 indicated that a high dosage of supplements of zinc, vitamin C, vitamin E and lutein may slow the progression of advanced dry AMD (it is not recommended for those without AMD or early AMD). Speak to a doctor before taking these supplements because there may be associated risks involved.
- Wear 99% -100% UV-blocking sunglasses.
The first step to eye health is awareness. By knowing your risk, taking preventative measures and visiting your eye doctor on a regular basis, you can greatly reduce your chances of facing this debilitating disease.
There are various types of macular degeneration. However, the most common form is associated with aging, this eye disease is also called age-related macular degeneration (ARMD).
The main symptom of Macular Degeneration is slowly losing vision in the central part of sight. This loss precludes the ability to do many everyday activities, including reading and driving. It also reduces your ability to see intricate details such as small prints and patterns.
The leading cause of vision loss in older Americans, 60 and older, is ARMD. There are two forms of this disease, wet macular degeneration and dry macular degeneration. Both forms affect the central portion of the retina, which is the light-sensitive section located in the back of the eye. This part of the eye processes images and is essentially responsible for sight. The dry form of ARMD is more common than the wet form. In fact, almost 90% of ARMD is the dry form.
The leading cause of losing vision in people over 60 years of age is macular degeneration. There are various risk factors, including smoking, obesity, and exposure to UV rays. Caucasians are at a significantly greater risk for contracting ARMD than African Americans. Additionally, macular degeneration affects women in greater numbers than men, and has a genetic component.