February is age related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision month.

Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is a primary cause of vision loss in those aged 65 and above. AMD is characterized by a degeneration of the macula of the retina which functions to allow clear vision in the center of your field of view.

Symptoms of Age Related Macular Degeneration

The first signs of age related macular degeneration are usually fuzzy or spots in the central vision. Because the symptoms typically come on at a slow pace without any pain, symptoms may not be detected until more severe vision loss is apparent. This is why it is very important to book a comprehensive eye examination, especially once you turn 65.

What are the Risk Factors for Age Related Macular Degeneration?

If you are a Caucasian over 65 years of age, who smokes, is obese and has high blood pressure or has family members that have had AMD, your chances of getting AMD are increased. Any individual that is at increased risk should be sure to schedule a yearly eye exam. Consulting with your optometrist, Dr. Stephen Cohen about proper nutrition including vitamins such as C, E, Beta-carotene (Vitamin A), and zinc, which are all antioxidants and omega-3s can also help reduce your chances of vision loss.

Varieties of AMD

Generally, macular degeneration is usually diagnosed as either wet or dry. Dry AMD is more commonplace and is thought to be caused by advanced age and thinning of the macular tissues or pigment build-up in the macula. The wet form, also called neovascular age related macular degeneration, is caused from the growth of new blood vessels under the retina which seep blood, which kills the retinal cells and causes vision loss in the central vision. Often the wet form is the more serious of the two.

Treatment for AMD

Although there isn’t cure for AMD, there are treatments that can slow or minimize vision loss. Depending on the type of AMD treatment may involve laser surgery or medical injections or in some cases, dietary supplements. In all cases, early diagnosis and treatment is critical. As your eye doctor, Dr. Cohen will also be able to recommend devices to help you deal with any vision loss that has already occurred. Such loss of sight that is not able to be recovered by standard measures such as glasses, contact lenses or surgery is known as low vision. There are a growing number of low vision devices on the market today that can make everyday activities easier.

It’s possible to protect your vision by being aware of the risks and signs of AMD. Visit your optometrist, Dr Stephen Cohen, to find out more about AMD and low vision.