Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss for individuals age 50 and older. Being visually impaired is going to be part of everyday life for many people.

According to the National Institutes of Health-Senior Health (nihseniorhealth.gov), people with low vision find everyday tasks difficult to do, even with the aid of regular glasses/contacts, medications, or surgery.  Having low vision can make basic activities like reading, shopping, cooking, writing, computer use, and watching TV extremely difficult.  Many times the individual's eye care physician has advised them that there is not much that can be done to improve their vision.  The consequences of vision loss may leave people feeling frustrated, helpless, scared and depressed.

The National Eye Institute suggest macular degeneration is a progressive disease that affects the macula, the spot on the retina responsible for central vision, causing central vision to blur but leaving peripheral vision intact.  In its earliest stages, AMD can be difficult to diagnose.  In some cases, AMD progresses slowly and in other cases the deterioration is very rapid.

A common risk factor is age.  AMD signs are present in about 14% of people under 64, 20% in people between 65 to 75, and up to 37% of people over 75.  Additionally, AMD is more common in women than men.  Some risk factor's are within one's control such as smoking, which interferes with the absorption of lutein, an antioxidant that protects the retina from UV light.  High blood pressure, diet and exercise, and exposure to sunlight without eye protection are also factors.  It is recommended that people wear protection that offers 100% blockage of UVA and UVB rays, which are mitigating factors in AMD.

A routine yearly eye examination is important for all adults to check the macular area and assess for any signs of macular degeneration.  Early treatment and intervention are very important to the progression of this disease.