Prevent Blindness has declared February as Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) and Low Vision Awareness Month. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, AMD is a leading cause of vision loss in people 50 years or older, and more than 2.9 million Americans age 40 and older have low vision. Low vision is defined as a visual impairment that is not correctable through surgery, medicine, eyeglasses, or contact lenses.
What is Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD)?
ARMD is a disorder of the macula. The macula is the part of your retina where your central and color vision comes from. ARMD is a complex disorder where degenerative protein/lipids (called “drusen”) deposit under the retina. These deposits are seen in early macular degeneration. As the disease progresses, the structural support system of the retina breaks down and can allow abnormal blood vessels to grow, or leak fluid and further disrupt the retinal cells. If these blood vessels grow in the macula then you will lose your central. (There are other types of macular degeneration and drusen deposits that are not related to ARMD so a complete eye exam by an eye doctor for diagnosis is recommended.
Macular degeneration is what happens when the area of the retina with the most light-sensitive cells deteriorates. This area, the macula, is what gives us our central vision, which makes it possible to see enough detail to read and write, drive, and make eye contact with people we talk to. The loss of this central vision makes it difficult to do many of the things we take for granted.
Risk Factors And Symptoms of AMD
Age is the biggest risk factor for AMD. While macular degeneration can happen earlier in life, it is most likely to occur after age 60. Additional factors can increase the likelihood of developing AMD, such as race, family history and genetics, and smoking. AMD is painless, and there may be no symptoms in the early stages. As it progresses, blurry patches or dark spots begin to appear in the central vision. Objects may look less bright than they used to, or they may appear warped.
Stages Of AMD
There are two main types of AMD: dry and wet. Dry macular degeneration is by far the most common, affecting up to 90 percent of the people with AMD. It occurs when macular tissues thin over time, typically accompanied by fatty deposits of drusin in the retina. The effects tend to be less serious than those of wet AMD.
A tenth of dry AMD cases will progress to wet AMD, which occurs when new, unstable blood vessels grow under the retina. These vessels can leak fluid and scar the macula, causing more rapid and serious vision loss than dry AMD.
For more on the different types of AMD, check out this short video:
Prevention Through Healthy Habits
You can do a lot to reduce your risk of developing AMD or slow its progression if you already have it. The key is healthy habits. Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy diet rich in foods like carrots, fish, leafy greens, and eggs. You can also protect your vision by wearing UV-blocking sunglasses and avoiding smoking.
The Optometrist’s Role
With both types of AMD, regular eye exams are essential for early detection. There is currently no cure for AMD, but a diagnosis is crucial for treatment that can slow the disease’s progress. If you’re worried you may be at risk for developing AMD, go see your local Vision Source® member optometrist today!
We feel so fortunate to have you as our patients! For any questions about your eye health, call or text us at 407-292-9812.
Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.