February is Age-Related Macular Degeneration Month

Did you know that over 200,000 people a year develop age related macular degeneration (AMD) and about 10 million Americans are currently affected by this condition?

The macula is the central part of the retina and influences one’s detailed central vision. There are two types of macular degeneration, wet and dry. About 90% of people with macular degeneration have dry, which occurs when fatty protein develops under the macula which causes it to thin so the macula does not function properly. Wet macular degeneration occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow under the macula and bulge and seep blood which impairs central vision. The wet version is much more damaging than dry and progresses much quicker.

Symptoms are often not noticeable in the early stages of the condition but can include having a blurry spot in the center of your vision, having trouble adjusting to a setting with lower light, and blurriness while reading. If the condition is only in one eye, the other one will try to compensate which often delays a sufferer from seeking treatment.

Those who are at increased risk include those with a family history of the condition as it is hereditary, having high blood pressure or cholesterol, smoking, obesity, and those who are Caucasian. AMD usually forms after the age of 50 with the risk of developing the disease increasing as a person ages.

There is no simple treatment for dry macular degeneration, taking certain vitamins and supplements such as zinc and antioxidants. Taking these supplements can reduce the chances of developing the condition as well as slowing its effects. For wet macular degeneration, treatments can include laser surgery or injections to block the growth and eventually destroy the abnormal blood vessels.

The best way to slow the progression of age related macular degeneration as well as slow the symptoms is to schedule a dilated eye exam with an optometrist who will provide the proper diagnosis and treatment.