February is National Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) Awareness Month
Macular Degeneration Awareness Matters
There is a month, a week, or a day out there for just about everything, and there’s a good reason for that. By educating and building awareness around things like Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD), you can learn to recognize the signs of macular degeneration early, and take action to preserve and support your eyesight and the best vision possible.
While there is no known cure for AMD, there are ways to prevent the condition from getting worse, and of slowing its progression. The key, as always, is identifying the issue as early as possible.
What Is Macular Degeneration
The “macula” is a small area in the back of your eye directly in the center of your retina. The macula is responsible for the vibrancy of color, sharpness, and clarity of what you see right in front of you, your central vision. As the macula degenerates or becomes damaged, your central vision suffers, creating “blind spots,” areas of vision that are darker or fuzzy, directly in front of you.
There are two types of AMD, known as wet and dry. Dry AMD is the most common, and effects the eye and vision as described earlier. In about 1out of every 10 cases, dry AMD can progress to become wet AMD, where abnormal blood vessels grow under the retina, leaking blood and fluid that can cause swelling and permanent scarring of the macula. Wet AMD can appear suddenly and worsen quickly leading to more severe vision loss, distortions, and loss of color vision.
What Causes Macular Degeneration?
Age appears to be the most prominent factor for risk of AMD. The risk increases from 2% for those ages 50-59, to nearly 30% for people over the age of 75.
Other risk factors include:
· Family genetic history
· Gender – Women are more likely to develop AMD than men
· Skin and Eye Color – People with lighter skin and eye color are also more likely to develop AMD
· Smoking – People who smoke or live with smokers are considerably more likely to develop AMD.
· Sun exposure – UV rays from the sun may increase the risk of AMD; sunglasses can protect your eyes.
· Diet – A high-fat diet is linked to an increased risk; some foods such as dark leafy greens, along with eye vitamins, may help protect vision.
· High blood pressure and cholesterol levels – Unmanaged, these conditions can increase the risk of macular degeneration and its progression.
· Obesity – Being obese is linked to a significant increase in the risk of AMD.
· Inactivity – Lack of aerobic exercise may be linked to macular degeneration; being active may slow its progression.
· Medications – Some antipsychotics and malaria treatments may increase the risk of AMD.
Managing Macular Degeneration
There is no treatment or cure for advanced AMD. That said, doctors do have a few tools to help manage AMD and curb its progression.
Ongoing research into new medications, stem cell, gene therapy, and other therapies do look promising. In the meantime, there are some current pharmaceutical medications and therapies including a high-dose formula of antioxidant vitamins and zinc that is sometimes used to delay or prevent AMD from progressing to a more advanced stage.
While there’s not a lot you can do about your genetic history, gender, skin or eye color, lifestyle and diet changes have also proven to be effective in lowering your risk of developing AMD.
· Exercise regularly
· Don’t smoke
· Maintain a healthy blood pressure and cholesterol level
· Maintain a healthy weight
· Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables
· Protect your eyes from overexposure to sunlight
More AMD Information
If you’re concerned or curious about AMD, contact your eye doctor and set up an appointment.