Facts you should know about age-related macular degeneration

February is Age-Related Macular Degeneration Awareness Month. Age-related macular degeneration, also known as AMD, is a common eye disease that can threaten your vision. If you are over 60, you are at risk for AMD, which is why even if you have no symptoms, you should get an eye exam once a year.

In addition to your age, other AMD risks factors include:

  • smoking
  • being Caucasian
  • genetics and family history
  • high blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  • obesity

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) predicts the number of people with AMD will double to more than 5 million by 2050.

What is Macular Degeneration?

Over time, macular degeneration damages the macula, a part of the retina that provides sharp, central vision.

Eye diagram courtesy of National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health
Eye diagram courtesy of National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health

The macula allows you to see fine detail like reading, watching TV and recognizing faces. If your macula is damaged, you can develop blank or blurry spots in your vision, so when you look at someone you might not see the middle of their face.

There are two forms of AMD

  • Dry AMD occurs when the light-sensitive cells in the macula break down. This gradually blurs your central vision, and it might cause glare and color-related contrast problems. It accounts for up to 90 percent of all AMD cases. Your eye doctor can help you manage Dry AMD.
  • Wet AMD occurs when abnormal blood vessels growing under the macula leak fluid and blood, resulting in swelling and damage of the macula. Wet AMD seldom causes total blindness and affects around one in 10 of all AMD cases. It can lead to a rapid, more severe loss of your central vision. Some people with dry AMD develop wet AMD. Either condition can appear first.Your eye doctor can discuss several options to treat Wet AMD.

Be sure to schedule an eye exam

Because AMD has few symptoms in the early stages and can progress slowly, make early detection your health priority.

If you are over 60 and haven’t had an eye exam in the past year, schedule an appointment for a comprehensive dilated eye exam with an eye doctor at Lighthouse Guild.

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