Welcome to February, one month closer to spring and an important month in eye health awareness. This month’s call to arms is for AMD, or Age-related Macular Degeneration, and general low vision issues. Understanding what these diseases are and how to manage them may one day save your own sight.
Age-related Macular Degeneration is a devastating condition affecting millions of people, many of whom are unaware that they have it, especially if they neglect their yearly eye exam. Contained within the eye are various components that help you see. One such component is the retina, responsible for transmitting the image to your brain in a way that can be interpreted. The retina includes the macula, specifically responsible for transmitting the central part of the image.
Imagine your field of vision as a person’s photograph. For a person with AMD, the person’s face would appear blurry, wavy, or completely missing. This painless disease occurs so gradually that you may not recognize the problem until your vision has been significantly diminished. Risk factors such as high cholesterol and blood pressure, being overweight, or smoking increase your chance of developing AMD.
Two types of AMD exist: Wet and Dry AMD. In the case of the more commonly occurring Dry AMD, color vision is compromised, caused by a thinning of the retina’s pigment epithelium. Dry AMD may develop into Wet AMD, where fluid or blood is leaked into the macula by malfunctioning blood vessels. Wet AMD is more rare, but more severe. Current technology promotes the use of omega 3’s and lutein to help prevent Wet AMD progression. AMD cannot be cured, but preventive measures may slow progress of the disease. A yearly eye exam is critical to catch AMD early.
Low vision is a catch-all phrase used to describe the effects of diminished sight. Vision reduction may be caused by cataracts, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy or detached retina. Some conditions are correctable with surgery, as in the case of cataracts and detached retina, but many destructive eye problems can only be managed. Early detection is the best tactic in fighting low vision.
Every year, eye doctors see even more patients with AMD or low vision. The best advice is to catch issues early during your annual eye exam. Being vigilant about your eye health now could preserve your vision for many more bright and colorful years.