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It is normal for our vision to change as we age. Unfortunately, these changes often include vision loss. In age-related macular degeneration (AMD), vision loss occurs in the central vision, resulting in a loss in the ability to see sharp or fine details. It is most common in those over 60, thus the reason it is called “age-related.” As with other eye disorders, regular eye exams are necessary for recognizing and treating age-related macular degeneration before it’s too late. Undetected and untreated, age-related macular degeneration may lead to blindness.

Age-related macular degeneration is caused by damage to the blood vessels that supply the macula, part of the retina at the back of the eye, which aids in sharpening vision so that we may see fine details. When the blood vessels become damaged or blocked, the macula also becomes damaged.

WHAT ARE THE EARLY WARNING SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS?

There are two types of age-related macular degeneration:

Dry AMD

The first and most common symptom of dry AMD is usually blurred vision. Over time, images become distorted or dim and colors appear faded. As the damage becomes worse, performing everyday tasks may become more difficult. In later stages of AMD, it may be difficult to recognize people until they are very close. Typically there is a blurred spot in the center of vision that becomes blurrier and larger over time.

Wet AMD

Although only 10% of those with AMD develop this variety, it is associated more severe vision loss. The most common early symptom is a distorted or wavy appearance to straight lines. There may be a small dark spot in the center of vision that becomes larger.
Regardless of whether you have, or suspect, wet or dry AMD, the disease tends to progress rapidly. If you have symptoms of either type of AMD, visit your eye specialist right away.

WHO IS AT RISK?

Those most at risk are over the age of 55, but especially those over 75, Caucasian, smokers, women, the obese, and those consuming high fat diets. AMD also has a hereditary link.

WHAT TREATMENTS ARE AVAILABLE?

As with glaucoma, there is currently no cure for AMD, but preventative care may help slow the disease. Your doctor will examine your eyes, go over your overall health history, and discuss your symptoms. Depending on your examination, your doctor may recommend dietary supplements or changes, low-vision aids such as special glasses, laser surgery, photodynamic therapy, or prescription medications. It is important to discuss your current medications and health concerns with your doctor as some dietary supplements and changes as well as smoking may interfere with some treatment options.

WHAT PREVENTATIVE ACTIONS CAN BE TAKEN BEFORE AMD DEVELOPS?

Although AMD isn’t entirely preventable, and there is no cure, you can reduce your risk. See your eye doctor for regular check-ups and discuss any family history of AMD or other eye disorders. Tell your eye doctor if you smoke, and let him or her know of any medications or supplements that you take. If you smoke, make a plan to quit. Maintain a healthy weight, eat a balanced low-fat diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, and exercise regularly. Finally, consult your doctor right away if you have any signs or symptoms of AMD.

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