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October - Are you at an increased risk for macular degeneration?

A patient called in to an IALVS doctor’s office concerned their mother lost vision from Macular Degeneration before she died and now that the patient was age 65, she was concerned she may get it.

There is an increased risk if a parent or sibling has the disease by three to four times. But the good news is there are things you can do to protect your eyesight, and a number of treatments that are available if you do happen to get it. Here's what you should know.

What is AMD?

Macular degeneration, also known as age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, is the most common cause of vision loss in people over age 50, affecting about 10 million Americans.

AMD is a progressive eye disease that damages the macula, the part of the eye that allows us to see objects clearly, causing vision loss in the center of your vision. This affects the ability to read, drive, watch television and do routine daily tasks, but it does not cause total blindness.

There are two types of AMD — wet and dry.

Dry AMD, which affects about 90 percent of all people that have it, progresses slowly and painlessly over a period of years. Wet AMD is much more aggressive and can cause severe vision loss in a matter of weeks or months.

Factors that can increase your risk of getting AMD include age (60 and older); smoking; excessive exposure to sunlight especially if you have light-colored eyes; certain genetic components; a family history of AMD; high blood pressure; obesity; and being Caucasian.

For anyone over the age of 60, it's a smart idea to get your eyes examined by an every year – especially if you are at a higher risk, or are showing symptoms of vision loss. Early signs may include shadowy areas in your central vision or unusually fuzzy or distorted vision. If you are experiencing any early signs, it is a good idea to have a specific low vision exam performed by an IALVS trained optometrist.

Preventing AMD

While there's currently no cure for AMD, there are some things you can do if you're high risk.

One option is to talk to your IALVS doctor about taking a daily dose of low vision vitamins and minerals known as AREDS — vitamins C and E, plus copper, lutein, zeaxanthin and zinc. Studies by the National Eye Institute have shown that AREDS can reduce the risk by about 25 percent that dry AMD will progress.

Other lifestyle adjustments that may help prevent or delay AMD include eating antioxidant-rich foods such as dark green, leafy vegetables, and cold-water fish for their omega-3 fatty acids; protecting your eyes from the sun by wearing UV protective sunglasses; controlling high blood pressure; exercising regularly; and if you smoke, quit.

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