February is age-related macular degeneration awareness month, as recognized by the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of permanent vision loss in adults 60 and older.
That’s why being aware of AMD and its warning signs is important as we get older. But like many age-related eye conditions, by the time AMD presents symptoms, it’s too late to restore any vision loss.
Vision loss caused by AMD is permanent, so it’s important to catch it early through regular eye exams. Keep reading to learn more about AMD and what you can do to be aware of the risks of this eye condition!
The biggest risk factor for AMD is age, but there are other factors that make it more likely to develop. These include:
• High blood pressure
• Being female
• Being light-skinned or having a light eye color
• Having a family history of AMD
Some of these factors are out of your control. But others are avoidable. Leading a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet and regular exercise is a good way to reduce your risk of AMD.
It’s also a good way to reduce your risk of developing other medical conditions. If you’re over 60 and have any of these risk factors, it’s important to have your eyes examined regularly. If you do have AMD, an early diagnosis is the only way to avoid further vision loss.
Types of AMD
The macula is the center of the retina. The retina is the thin membrane located on the back of your eye. It contains photosensitive cells that receive light and translate them as impulses to the optic nerve.
These impulses are then turned into images that your brain can understand. As we get older, the macula can deteriorate, affecting your central vision. There are two types of AMD:
Dry AMD happens when yellow deposits called drusen form in the macula. Drusen may be benign in small numbers, but as more develops, they can distort your vision. Too many drusen can kill the cells that make up the macula, destroying parts of your vision.
Wet AMD is the result of abnormal blood vessels developing under the macula that swell and leak. Eventually, swollen blood vessels can cause scarring. This destroys the cells that make up the macula and causes central vision loss.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Early diagnosis is vital when it comes to preserving any remaining vision with AMD. You should have regular eye exams so your doctor can detect early signs of AMD.
This is the only way to detect AMD before you develop symptoms. Once you’re diagnosed, while there is no cure for dry or wet AMD, there are treatment options.
Dry AMD is harder to treat than wet AMD. Eye doctors have had success in slowing the progress of degeneration by prescribing certain vitamins.
Wet AMD can be treated with several surgical methods. Laser therapy targets leaking blood vessels. These leaking blood vessels are then sealed off to prevent further leaking.
Wet AMD can also be treated using injections. These injections stop the production of proteins that cause new blood vessel growth. They can also temporarily reduce the number of abnormal blood vessels under the macula.
When taken regularly, these injections can prevent long-term damage to the macula and reduce vision loss.
Can’t remember the last time you had an eye exam? Schedule one at East Michigan Eye Center in Flint, MI! It’s never too late to make your eyes a priority.