February is macular degeneration/low vision awareness month. If you have one of these conditions that can cause difficulty conducting daily tasks such as driving, reading and recognizing faces, you are probably already aware.
But most people may not be aware that age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of severe, irreversible vision impairment in the United States for people age 50 and older. One-third of adults over age 75 are affected by AMD.
Macular degeneration damages the macula, which is the central part of the retina, the film lining the inside of the eye. AMD can cause vision loss quickly or slowly. The good news is AMD almost never causes total blindness because it does not usually impact peripheral vision.
There are two types of AMD: dry and wet. Dry AMD, also known as atrophic or non-exudative AMD, is the most common form, accounting for at least 80 percent of patients with AMD. It tends to progress slowly over many years to affect central vision. Despite the smaller population of patients with wet AMD, also known as neovascular or exudative AMD, this group accounts for 90 percent of severe vision loss from AMD.
Symptoms of AMD may not be evident until the disease progresses to affect both eyes, which is why regular eye exams are so important, even if there are no noticeable vision problems. People age 50 or older should get a complete eye exam yearly.
AMD symptoms can include:
• Difficulty seeing in the center of your vision
• Trouble seeing in dim light
• Straight lines appearing wavy, blurry or missing
• Fading and/or changing in the appearance of colors
While medical experts are not sure exactly what causes AMD, some factors may increase risk for developing it, including:
• Family history
• Race – Caucasians have a higher rate of AMD
• Sex – females have a higher rate of AMD, which may be because they live longer
• Light colored eyes
• Heart disease
• High blood pressure (hypertension)
• High cholesterol
• High sun exposure
• Poor diet with low intake of antioxidants
Currently, the only treatment for dry AMD is dietary vitamin and other supplements. The National Eye Institute sponsored a clinical trial called the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS), which evaluated the use of a high-dose combination of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene and zinc for patients with varying degrees of macular degeneration. The study found that people at high risk of developing advanced stages of AMD lowered their risk by about 25 percent, recommending patients with intermediate AMD or advanced AMD in at least one eye take AREDS supplements with this formulation of antioxidants and zinc to decrease risk of vision loss from AMD.
Treatment for wet AMD can include lasers and drugs injected into the eye. Straight lines that become wavy may be a sign of wet AMD, and an eye doctor should be contacted immediately. Early intervention has revolutionized outcomes for patients with wet AMD by decreasing progression and sometimes even improving vision.
While no cure for AMD is yet available, lifestyle adjustments can be made to deal with the challenges of low vision such as using magnifying lenses, closed-circuit TVs, bright lamps and large-print books and magazines.
Everyone over the age of 50 should schedule regular eye exams, avoid smoking or secondhand smoke, eat a diet rich in green, leafy vegetables and natural omega 3 fatty acids, wear sunglasses with 100 percent UV protection and exercise regularly to help prevent AMD.
Choose to be proactive in maintaining the overall health of your eyes. Schedule a dilated eye exam today with Elmquist Eye Group’s team of highly skilled associates.
With more than 25 years of service to the Southwest Florida community, Elmquist Eye Group offers experienced doctors who are dedicated to patient care. Dr. E. Trevor Elmquist, Dr. Kate Wagner, Dr. Sarah Eccles-Brown and Dr. Nina Burt of Elmquist Eye Group are available to answer your questions. With three U.S. military veterans leading the practice, rest assured knowing that Elmquist Eye Group’s team stands ready to serve you with knowledge and experience right here in Southwest Florida.
For more information, visit www.Elmquist.com, call 239-936-2020 or stop by an Optical Boutique location in Fort Myers or Cape Coral.
7970 Summerlin Lakes Drive
2336 Surfside Blvd., Suite 121