February is Age-Related Macular Degeneration month. This month, we’d like to bring attention to this sight-threatening eye disease. Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, is a gradual ocular disease that causes your central vision to deteriorate. If AMD runs in your family, or if you fall into one of the risk categories, read on for all the details you need to know to ensure you avoid losing your sight.
Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss in our country. In fact, there are a number of shocking statistics regarding AMD:
- This disease is found in 2% of Americans over the age of 50.
- It affects females more than males, 65% of cases are women.
- More common in Caucasians, nearly 90% of all cases are in white patients.
- Estimated that more than 5.44 million people will be affected by the disease by 2050.
- The rate of AMD grew from 1.75 million in 2000 to 2.07 million in 2010.
What is Age-Related Macular Degeneration
As you age, so do your eyes. At the very center of your retina is a cluster of cells. These cells are very sensitive to light and are responsible for your central vision. As you age, these cells break down and do not perform as they are supposed to. When this happens, you begin to see distortion, shadows, or dark spots in your vision.
Dry Form AMD
The light-sensitive cells slowly break down. It is called “dry” because there is no bleeding or swelling. This accounts for 90% of the cases of AMD in the United States. In time, this dry form can cause a complete loss of vision. It is possible for this form to suddenly turn into the wet form.
Wet Form AMD
This form only occurs after dry AMD is already present and progresses very quickly. Your body creates new blood vessels to replace damaged ones, but they are inferior to your original vessels and break and leak causing damage, scarring, and vision loss.
There are many risk factors that you have no control over, so it is extremely important that you take control of the items you can control. Risk factors for this disease include:
- Advanced age – over the age of 60
- High blood pressure
- Family history
- Sun exposure
To avoid developing AMD, we suggest making the following lifestyle changes:
- Quit smoking
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain a healthy blood pressure
- Stay a healthy weight
- Eat a well-balanced diet: high in fruit, vegetables, and fish
- Protect your eyes from sun exposure
Unfortunately, there is no cure for age-related macular degeneration. However, there are a number of treatments that are proving to be useful in slowing or stopping the progression of this disease.
Antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals have had positive results preventing or delaying this disease. This list is no more than a guide on how to source these nutrients, talk to your doctor about how to increase your intake.
- Zinc – oysters, beef
- Zeaxanthin – leafy greens, broccoli
- Selenium – seafood, brown rice
- Vitamin D – salmon, milk, sardines
- Vitamin E – sunflower seeds, almonds
These treatments are injections made into the eye. They reduce the growth of new blood vessels that cause leakage into the eye. It can help to avoid further vision loss and, in some cases, a mild improvement in vision. It may seem frightening to have an injection into your eye, but your eye will be anesthetized so it merely feels like a bit of pressure on your eyeball.
Early Detection is Key
There are steps you can take to help prevent AMD. During your yearly eye health exam, we can formulate a personalized preventative plan to reduce your risk or better control the progression of the disease.
Identifying any early warning signs of age-related macular degeneration is your best defense against any vision loss. Talk to your optometrist at Complete Family Eye Care to ensure you are living your best life without risk of AMD.