February is Age-related Macular Degeneration Awareness Month
What is AMD?
AMD, or age-related macular degeneration, is a leading cause of vision loss for Americans age 50 and older. It affects central vision, where sharpest vision occurs, causing difficulty conducting daily tasks such as driving, reading, and recognizing faces.
What causes AMD?
AMD affects part of the back of the eye called the macula, the central part of the retina (the “film” lining the inside the eye). When AMD damages the macula, the center part of a person’s vision may become blurred or wavy, and a blind spot may develop. AMD can cause vision loss quickly or slowly, and can make it very hard to do things that require sharp vision, such as reading, sewing, cooking or driving; it can also make it difficult to see in dim light. The good news is that AMD almost never causes total blindness, since it usually does not hurt side (peripheral) vision.
What are the types of AMD?
Dry and wet. The most common form of AMD is “dry” AMD. This is caused by the appearance of small yellow deposits called drusen, which form under the retina. These are accumulated waste products of the retina, which can grow in size and stop the flow of nutrients to the retina. This will cause the retinal cells in the macula that process light to die, causing vision to become blurred. This form of the disease usually worsens slowly. “Wet” AMD generally causes more rapid and more serious vision loss. In this form of the disease, tiny new blood vessels grow under and into the retina. These blood vessels are fragile and often break and leak, causing a loss of vision.
What increases risk for AMD?
Family history of AMD
Aging – those over 60 years old
Race – Caucasians have a higher rate of AMD
Sex – females have a higher rate of AMD which may be because they live longer
Light colored eyes
High blood pressure (hypertension)
High sun exposure
Poor diet – with low intake of anti-oxidants
What are the symptoms of AMD?
There may be no symptoms until the disease progresses or affects both eyes. Vision changes due to AMD are:
Difficulty seeing in the center of your vision, which is needed for reading, sewing, cooking, looking at faces, and driving
Trouble seeing in dim light
Straight lines start to appear wavy, blurry or missing
Fading and/or changes in the appearance of colors
If you experience any of these symptoms, see an eye doctor as soon as possible.
Living With AMD
If you have age-related macular degeneration, you’re not alone. There is much you can do to prevent vision loss from AMD and maintain your independence and quality of life while living with the disease.
Living with Low Vision
If you or someone you know has lost some sight to AMD, low vision aids can help you stay independent. Special training, called vision rehabilitation, can provide skills for living with low vision. A low vision specialist will help determine the right combination of aids for your needs. Ask your eye doctor about the possibility of seeing a low vision specialist.
Low vision aids include:
Magnifying glasses, screens and stands
High-intensity reading lamps
Large-print newspapers, magazines and books
Close-circuit TVs that magnify a printed page on screen
Computers and tablets