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AMD Awareness Month

February is national AMD Awareness Month.  This year, 200,000 Americans will be newly diagnosed with AMD.

What is AMD?

AMD stands for Age-Related Macular Degeneration and is the leading cause of vision loss among people age 50 and older.  It causes damage to the macula, the small area near the center of the retina where sharp, central vision occurs.

AMD by itself doesn’t lead to complete blindness.  Instead, the loss of central vision interferes with everyday activities, such as the ability to see faces, drive, read, write or do close work.

There are three stages of AMD, early, intermediate and late stage.  In the late stage, there are also two forms of AMD, dry and wet.  Dry AMD involves atrophy through a gradual breakdown of the cells in the macula.  Wet AMD is neovascular, with abnormal blood vessels growing underneath the retina.  It is possible to have both dry and wet AMD in the same eye.

Who is at risk?

As indicated in its name, age is the major risk factor for AMD, most likely occurring after age 60.  Other risk factors include:

  • Smoking – Smoking doubles your risk for AMD.
  • Race – AMD is more common among Caucasians than among African-Americans or Hispanics/Latinos.
  • Family History & Genetics If you have a family history of AMD, you are at greater risk.

How is AMD detected?

Only a comprehensive dilated eye exam can detect AMD.  AMD usually starts without symptoms, thus the reason to have your eyes examined regularly.  During your exam, we will look for drusen (yellow deposits beneath the retina) and pigmentary changes under the retina.  Further specialized tests may be ordered based on findings.

While AMD usually starts without symptoms, later stage symptoms may include:

  • Gradual loss of ability to see objects clearly
  • Objects appear distorted in shape – straight lines look wavy or crooked
  • Loss of clear color vision
  • A dark or empty area appears in the center of vision

If you experience any of these symptoms, contact us immediately.  Better yet, have your eyes examined regularly so that changes to the macula can be monitored year to year. Central vision that is lost to macular degeneration cannot be restored. Remember that awareness makes a difference.

How is AMD treated?

There are currently no treatments for early AMD.  For prevention, research shows that AMD occurs less often in people who exercise, avoid smoking and maintain good nutrition, especially including green leafy vegetables and fish.  Nutritional supplements are often recommended (AREDS & AREDS2) which research shows may slow early AMD progression and reduce the risk of developing late stage AMD.  Late stage treatments such as injections, photodynamic therapy and laser surgery are not a cure but are designed to stop or slow further vision loss.

For those already affected by late stage AMD, living with low vision can be very challenging, but there are many resources available to help.

As always, if you ever have any concerns or questions about your eye health, do not hesitate to contact us.  Be sure to schedule your eye exam annually to maintain good vision and eye health.  Prevention is key with many eye diseases, including glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and AMD.

In good health,

Drs. Jeff Morrison, Mark Wahlmeier, Danielle McAtee, Jordan Hagler & Andrea Hagler