January 31, 2017

February is National AMD and Low Vision Awareness Month

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Age-related Macular Degeneration, or AMD, is a leading cause of vision loss among adults over the age of 50. AMD primarily destroys the sharp central vision that is provided by a spot in the center of the retina called the macula. Sharp central vision is needed to read, drive, identify faces, watch television and perform daily tasks that require detailed vision.

AMD has few symptoms in the early stages, so it is important to have your eyes checked regularly. In some people, AMD can develop slowly, so that the vision loss does not occur for a long time. In others, the disease progresses more quickly and can affect one or both eyes. Symptoms of AMD can include: visual distortion (straight lines appear wavy), blurring of central vision, or a blind spot in your vision.

There are a number of risk factors that may play a role in the development of AMD. Age is the major risk factor. Smoking and obesity both increase your risk. Caucasians are more likely to develop AMD than are African-Americans or Hispanic/Latinos. Having a family member with AMD increases your risk, as does uncontrolled hypertension and elevated cholesterol, as well as UV and blue light exposure.

Having a low Macular Pigment Optical Density (MPOD) score is also thought to increase your risk. We now have the ability to test the thickness of your macular pigment with a simple, painless, in-office procedure. If you are found to have a low MPOD score, you may be placed on specific vitamins to increase your pigment thickness. This in turn helps to lower your risk for developing AMD. It is recommended that anyone with any risk factors for AMD have their MPOD tested.

Treatments for early AMD include vitamin supplements and lifestyle modifications to help reduce the risk of further progression. With advanced macular degeneration, injections to stop progression are the mainstay of treatment, as well as vitamin supplements.

While there is no cure for macular degeneration, there is hope. Low Vision Specialists can help you use your remaining vision more effectively. There are devices for everything from reading to cooking to watching television and sports events. Some of our favorite devices are digital and provide amazing clarity and magnification. Others incorporate LED lighting and magnification together to allow for reading smaller text. A low vision specialist can also offer tips on simple things you can do around your home to make life easier and more enjoyable.

So what can you do? Decrease your risk factors as much as possible. Avoid smoking, wear good UV protection every time you go outside, exercise regularly, maintain normal blood pressure and cholesterol and eat a diet rich in green leafy vegetables. Have your eyes checked regularly and encourage those you love to do the same!

Please do not hesitate to call our office if you have any questions.

– Dr. Kathy Warner

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