February is National Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) Month. In 2010 approximately 2.07 million people in the United States had AMD. But what is AMD? AMD is a group of conditions that cause deterioration to the macula. The macula is the central most part of the retina which is responsible for the sharp, central vision. Because AMD affects the central vision it can limit the daily activities of a person diagnosed with it.
There are certain risk factors for developing AMD. The first one is age (hence the name). It is more common in people over the age of 60. Additional risk factors include smoking, which according to the National Institute of Health doubles your risk for developing AMD, race (Caucasians are at the highest risk), and family history/genetics.
Age-related Macular Degeneration can only be diagnosed by seeing an optometrist or ophthalmologist. During an eye exam the doctor will check your visual acuity (how well you see), dilate, and possible run test such as ocular coherence tomography (OCT), fundus photos, or fluorescein angiography.
You can play a role in helping track changes in your macula by using an Amsler Grid on a daily basis. Some doctors also recommend a diet full of green leafy vegetables and omega-3s. Supplements are available that contain vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, lutein, and zeaxanthin. To determine which supplements are best for you consult with your eye doctor.
During the early stages of AMD your eye doctor will perform regular exams to watch for any changes. In more advance cases treatment may be necessary including anti-VEGF injections. These help limit the amount of new blood vessel growth in the eye. Being pro-active is the best thing you can do if you have concerns about Age-Related Macular Degeneration.
If you have any question don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment.