What Is Age Related Macular Degeneration or ARMD?
The macula on the retina provides sharp, central vision. The breakdown of the macula is a disease called macular degeneration, and can be serious. Untreated macular degeneration is one of the leading causes of blindness in those over 65 years old.
While researchers have not yet discovered a cure for age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), there are treatment options which prevent the disease from progressing to blindness, and in some cases, they can even improve vision. It’s important to have an open discussion with your eye doctor about the risks and limitations of ARMD treatments.
What causes macular degeneration?
Age is the main risk factor for macular degeneration and the condition is most likely to appear after age 60. However, you’re more likely to develop it if you smoke, are overweight, or eat a diet rich in saturated fats.
Your chance of developing macular degeneration is also higher if you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or have a family history of macular degeneration. It’s also known to disproportionately affect people who are white.
How is macular degeneration diagnosed?
The early stages of macular degeneration usually have no symptoms so regular eye exams are important.
During your exam, the team checks your vision and does a dilated eye exam to check your retina, the part of your eye that processes light.
After putting special drops in your eyes that widen your pupils, your vision specialist looks at your optic nerve and the back of your retina with a magnifying glass, checking for small yellow deposits, called drusen, that are a common early sign of macular degeneration.
Your provider may also ask you to look at an Amsler grid. If the lines in this pattern of checkerboard-like straight lines appear wavy or distorted, you could be in the early stages of macular degeneration.
What treatments do you offer for macular degeneration?
While macular degeneration isn’t curable, specialists at the practice work with you to reduce your risk of developing it and possibly slow its progression if you already have it.
Your provider suggests a number of lifestyle changes to help preserve your vision like:
- Changing your diet
- Exercising more
- Avoiding smoking
- Using UV protection
If it’s time for your annual eye exam or if you haven’t had an exam in a while, call our office to schedule an appointment so you can be checked for signs of macular degeneration.