For people age 50 and older, age-related macular degeneration is one of the leading causes of irreversible vision loss.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) causes the gradual loss of central vision through the deterioration of the macula, or the part of the retina that gives us our sharp, detailed central vision. AMD can make it very difficult or even impossible to perform many daily tasks, such as driving, reading, and writing.
Recognize the Symptoms of AMD
A danger of AMD is that it doesn’t always have noticeable symptoms, so patients who don’t see their eye doctors for long periods might not realize anything is wrong. AMD is painless and the effects on the vision might not appear right away. Gradually, though, blurry or dark patches will begin to develop in the central vision. Other symptoms are that things might start to look duller than they used to or appear warped.
Identify the Risk Factors
AMD doesn’t only affect older people, but age is the biggest risk factor and one reason why regular eye exams are so important. One of the unfortunate things about AMD is that we can’t control most of the risk factors, which also include race and genetics. White Americans are significantly more likely to develop AMD than other ethnic groups. However, there is one risk factor we can control: smoking.
The Two Types of AMD: Wet and Dry
There are two different types of AMD: wet and dry. Dry macular degeneration accounts for up to 90% of the cases, and it happens when the macula tissues thin over time while fatty deposits of drusen build-up. While dry AMD is much more common, it also tends to be less serious, but it can develop into wet AMD.
Wet AMD occurs when new blood vessels grow under the retina in the body’s attempt to bolster the blood supply. The new blood vessels are weaker and less stable and are prone to leaking fluid and scarring the macula, resulting in more serious vision loss that progresses faster.
Catching AMD Early and Slowing Its Progress
At this point in time, there is no cure for age-related macular degeneration, but there’s still a lot we can do. Outside of the eye doctor’s office, we can build and maintain healthy habits like eating right (including plenty of fish, carrots, eggs, and leafy greens), exercising, and avoiding harmful habits like smoking. A healthy lifestyle improves the health of the entire body, including the eyes. It will both help to reduce the risk of developing AMD and slow its progress after the diagnosis.