February is Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) Awareness Month. If you’re not already aware of AMD, we recommend learning what to watch for as this is a condition that affects more than 10 million Americans. AMD is the leading cause of severe vision loss and blindness.
AMD is caused by deterioration of the central part of the retina—the inside back layer of the eye that “records” images the optic nerve sends to the brain. The retina’s central portion, known as the macula, is responsible for focusing central vision in the eye, and it controls our ability to read, drive a car, recognize faces or colors, and see objects in fine detail.
There are two common types of AMD: dry and wet. Eyes with dry AMD have changes in the macular pigment that are seen during a dilated examination. Some patients experience Wet AMD, which is caused by abnormal leaky blood vessels that grow underneath the retina.
Who is at risk for developing AMD?
While AMD can develop in anyone, there are certain risk factors that make the disease more likely, including:
- Older age
- Race – AMD is more common among Caucasians
What are the symptoms of AMD?
As AMD progresses, the symptoms that people most often experience are wavy or blurred vision. When AMD worsens, central vision may be completely lost while peripheral vision is retained since the rest of the retina continues to function properly. Those who have advanced AMD are considered legally blind.
How is AMD diagnosed and treated?
AMD is a chronic disease and early detection is key to successful treatment. Because vision impairment and loss occur later on as the disease progresses, it is important to keep up with regular eye examinations—especially if any of the above-listed risk factors apply to you.
For many years there were very few treatment options available. Luckily, this is no longer the case. We now have medications that can reverse and prevent vision loss from wet AMD and preventative strategies to slow the progression of dry AMD.