Macular Degeneration Month!!
Macular degeneration or AMD is a disease that has no symptoms until you start to develop blindness. Macular degeneration however does have signs. Macular Degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss, affecting more than 10 million Americans – more than cataracts and glaucoma combined.
Now that i have your attention, lets talk about AMD. It can cause central blindness, it can affect anyone. signs can start showing up as early as your 30’s, for true symptoms (beginning blindness) they can start showing up as early as your 50’s, AMD wasn’t always the leading cause of blindness, that title was held my diabetes for the longest time. Now however 1 in 10 people over the age of 70 have full deterioration of vision. That means of 9 other people you know 1 of you is going to develop AMD. There is no cure for AMD, there is no prevention. There is however early detection and treatment to prolong your vision.
There are actually three stages of AMD. The first stage is called Early AMD, the second stage is intermediate AMD and the final stage is Late AMD.
In Early AMD you develop what is called Drusen, A build up of yellow medium sized deposits beneath the retina, again there are no symptoms of these, they will not cause issues, you will not even notice them. UNLESS you get a dilated eye exam with retinal imagining and scans. These scans and images are able to show us the deposits and how much of them there is.
In Intermediate AMD there may be some vision loss, but there still may not be noticeable symptoms. An eye exam with retinal scans and photos will look for larger drusen and/or pigment changes in the retina.
In Late stages AMD, there is significant vision loss.
If you or a family member were diagnosed or you just have general question after hearing about it at your most resent eye exam here is some information for you.
There is no definitive cause of AMD, there is research saying it could be to much UV (ultra violet ) exposure, there are studies saying smoking can lead to it and there are even studies saying certain diets can cause it. What we do know for certain is that it is hereditary and environmental, that is is more prevalent than it was and that it is very complex.
Dr. Carl Kupfer, the former Director of the National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health, has stated that Macular Degeneration will soon take on aspects of an epidemic as the Baby Boomers’ age: “As the “baby boom” generation ages, and in the absence of further prevention and treatment advances, the prevalence of AMD is estimated to reach epidemic proportions of 6.3 million Americans by the year 2030.”
There are foundations out there doing research into the cause, treatment and cure of AMD, the AMDF (American macuar degeneration foundation) is one of those such foundations.
Most people would like to know if they are at risk to develop it.
The biggest risk is Age, if you are close to or are 30 your should be getting checked regularly to start treatment at the first signs of AMD. If you are in your 50’s you should be checking to make sure you are not developing AMD.
Other risk factors are
Genetics – if you have a family member whom has AMD you are more likely to develop it.
Race- Caucasians are more likely to develop the disease than African-Americans or Hispanics/Latinos.
Smoking- smokers are at greater risk of developing AMD than non smokers, it actually doubles your chances.
There is currently no cure for Macular Degeneration, there are things you can do to reduce your risk and possibly slow the progression once you’ve been diagnosed.You can pursue lifestyle changes like dieting, exercise, avoiding smoking, and protecting your eyes from ultraviolet light. ( wearing sunglasses, particularly polarized ones, or transitions on your regular glasses)