1.65 million Americans have Macular Degeneration. Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is characterized by the loss of central vision, usually in both eyes, and is the leading cause of vision loss in people ages 65 and older. This month, Friends for Sight urges you to be aware of the risk factors associated with AMD, and get your eyes checked regularly.
There are two forms of this eye disease: wet and dry. Both forms deal with the macula (this small oval area is equipped with cells specialized for visual acuity) which is in the center of the retina and is only the size of a pencil eraser. AMD signs and symptoms for each type include:
· Most common form of the disease
· Macula deteriorates
· Causes a blurred central vision or blind spots
· Can progress to wet AMD at any time
· Abnormal blood vessels grow under the retina and leak fluid and blood into the macula
· Visual distortions occur (straight lines appear wavy, street signs look lopsided)
· Symptoms usually appear and progress rapidly
A recent National Eye Institute study indicates that high dosage supplements of zinc, vitamins C and E, and beta-carotene may slow the progression of both forms of AMD, but they are not a cure. "This breakthrough gives hope to people with dry AMD, as prior to these findings there was no known treatment," said Kate Edwards, Friends for Sight's Executive Director. Because the use of high-dose nutritional supplements involves some risk, anyone considering taking these supplements should consult with their physician first. Experts agree that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and fish can greatly decrease your risk of AMD.
Risk factors are similar for both dry and wet AMD. They include:
· Older than 50
· Family history of AMD
· History of smoking
· High blood pressure/cholesterol
· Lack of vitamins prevalent in fruits and vegetables
To help reduce your risk of vision loss, there are several actions you can take to have healthy eyesight. Prevent Blindness America suggests getting regular dilated eye exams, wearing 99%-100% UV-blocking sunglasses, quitting smoking, and wearing safety eye protection in hazardous situations.