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A Closer Look at Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration is a leading cause of vision loss in older adults. Around 15 million Americans have the progressive eye disease known as AMD, age-related macular degeneration. Some people can go years without any noticeable changes to vision while others experience rapid vision loss. Total blindness is rare as it does not affect peripheral vision, but it can lead to what is known as legal blindness if left untreated. Legal blindness refers to having corrected vision of 20/200 in the best-seeing eye. 

Early symptoms of age-related macular degeneration include visual distortions such as straight lines that seem bent, the need for brighter light when reading or working, trouble adapting to low light, blurriness of printed words, reduced intensity or brightness of colors or difficulty recognizing faces. The macula, the small region in the center of the eye’s light-sensitive layer of tissue called the retina, contains millions of cells that provide sharp, central, color vision. While the exact cause is unknown, a combination of age, genetics and lifestyle factors seem to be the key indicators in developing AMD. The risk goes up after age 55 if you are female, if you have a family history, if you are Caucasian, have light colored eyes, and have diabetes or cardiovascular disease. Smoking and sun exposure can also greatly contribute to the onset of AMD. It is believed that age-related damage of an important support membrane under the retina contributes to age-related macular degeneration.

AMD presents as 2 types: dry and wet. Dry is the most common form of AMD where small, yellow deposits called drusen form and collect under the retina causing the macula to thin and dry out. Dry AMD progresses to either advanced dry AMD or wet AMD. The advanced stage of wet AMD is caused by abnormal growth of blood vessels under the macula that leak and cause swelling and scarring to the macula, damaging light-sensing cells. Without treatment of either type of AMD, symptoms will progress from early to intermediate to atrophic, which not only impacts quality of life but may result in legal blindness. 

A closer look at age-related macular degeneration shows that while there is no cure, prevention tactics can help protect the eyes and reduce the risk of developing AMD. These include wearing sunglasses or wide-brimmed hats, eating fish and nuts that contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, a nutritious diet of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and supplements that support eye health, regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, manage blood pressure, drink responsibly and in moderation, quit smoking, and get regular dilated eye exams at Premier Eye care & Surgery Center by calling 847-459-6060 or WEBSITE

Some practical tips for coping with macular degeneration and enjoying life as independently as possible include making sure your home has plenty of bright lighting, using magnifiers to see details in a larger capacity, using devices that read aloud to you, registering as sight impaired to receive further aid, benefits and support that can alleviate some of the worry and expense that comes with worsening vision and participating in vision therapy options with a low vision specialist.