Age-Related Macular Degeneration Awareness
The leading cause of permanent central vision loss for adults over the age of 65 is age-related macular degeneration, or AMD. The CDC estimates that 1.8 million Americans over the age of 40 have AMD, and another 7.3 million are at risk for developing AMD. February is AMD Awareness Month, so let’s take a closer look at what AMD is.
AMD can develop naturally during the aging process, and it affects the macula, a tiny spot on the center of the retina. The macula is the most sensitive part of the retina and is filled with millions of light-sensing cells; the macula is what provides you with sharp, clear vision in the center of your visual field. You read fine print and see sharp details using the macula. If deposits called “drusen” form under the macula, the macula can thin out and stop functioning correctly. This is called “dry AMD” and is the most common form of AMD. Another form of AMD is known as “wet AMD”; this is caused by blood vessels growing abnormally beneath the retina and leaking blood. Wet AMD affects about 10% of people with AMD, and it progresses faster and causes more damage than dry AMD. Both types of AMD can begin in one eye and may progress to the other eye. AMD does not usually cause total blindness.
Supplements and Therapy options offer Hope
There is no treatment for AMD in the early stages, and there is no cure available for vision loss due to AMD. However, researchers involved with the Age-Related Eye Disease Studies (AREDS and AREDS2) have found that the progression of AMD can be slowed in the intermediate or late stages by taking certain vitamins and minerals. There are over-the-counter supplements available based on the results of these trials. Look for supplements that list lutein and zeaxanthin on the label. Wet AMD can also be treated with laser therapy, direct injections of drugs into the retina, and photodynamic therapy. Photodynamic therapy involves injection of drugs into the arm; the drugs then travel to the blood vessels in the eyes and are activated by a light shone into the eyes.
Lower your Risk for AMD
The risk of AMD can be lowered or its progression slowed by certain lifestyle choices. Avoid smoking, maintain normal cholesterol levels and blood pressure, exercise regularly, and eat a healthy diet rich in leafy greens and fish. And make sure to visit your eye doctor regularly because there are no symptoms in early and intermediate stages of AMD; only an eye exam can detect it towards the beginning of the disease.