Age-Related Macular Degeneration

An eye health issue that has become more common since the baby boomer generation reached their 60s, Age-Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD) is a hot topic these days.

The macula, or central retina, is responsible for our central vision and important for reading, driving and seeing anything straight ahead. Aging is the main risk factor, but a family history of the disorder along with European heritage also increases the chances of developing ARMD. Smoking doubles the risk. Other contributing factors are obesity, high blood pressure and having a poor diet lacking green leafy vegetables. More exercise and a better diet will help reduce those risks.

Many studies have shown mild to moderate forms of ARMD are improved by certain dietary anti-oxidant supplements, vitamins and minerals, so those same ingredients may help prevent the disease in those with a family history.

There are two main types of ARMD – wet and dry. The dry version typically starts out not affecting vision at all, but can progress slowly over time to cause central vision loss. A patient may have it without knowing, but eye exams can easily find it. There are currently no effective treatments other than the supplements and lifestyle changes mentioned earlier, but research is moving rapidly to find ways to control progression.

Wet macular degeneration usually starts out dry but then advances to a point where leakage from underlying blood vessels begins to affect vision. The most common treatment for wet ARMD is to inject a small amount of a drug into the eye that works to control or stop the leakage. This is typically done a number of times over a period of months to years.

Early symptoms of dry ARMD may include slightly blurred vision, needing more light for reading, and difficulty recognizing people’s faces until they are very close. A symptom of more advanced dry ARMD is the presence of a blurred spot in the center of vision. An early symptom of wet ARMD is the wavy appearance of straight lines.

As ARMD is the leading cause of vision loss in people over age 60, it is crucial to have regular eye exams to check for any signs. Contact us today to schedule a comprehensive exam and protect your vision.

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