Age-Related Macular Degeneration: How to Detect, Treat, and Help Prevent

Nearly 15 million Americans suffer from age-related macular degeneration (AMD); it is the number one cause of severe vision loss in adults over the age of 60. Macular degeneration is damage or breakdown of the macula, which is a small area at the back of the eye that allows us to see fine details clearly. When this occurs, we experience blurriness or darkness in the center of our vision. AMD affects the lives of many people by impairing their ability to see and function in daily life.

February is National AMD/Low Vision Awareness Month, and we are encouraging everyone to educate themselves on age-related macular degeneration. It is important to understand the symptoms, treatment procedures, and preventive measures that you can take to decrease your risk of developing AMD.

Symptoms of AMD

Macular degeneration can be hard to detect in its early stages, and the symptoms may be different for everyone. When both eyes are affected, the symptoms are easier to detect than if only one eye is affected. Some common ways AMD can be detected include:

  • Words on a page appearing blurry
  • A dark or empty area in the center of vision
  • Straight lines looking distorted

If you experience any of these symptoms, visit your eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam. They’ll be able to detect macular degeneration in its early stages. And the earlier it is detected, the earlier you can begin an effective treatment procedure.

Treatment Options for AMD

There are several treatment options for patients with age-related macular degeneration once abnormal blood vessels form. It is important for AMD patients to check their macula daily by performing Amsler grid testing in each eye. The Amsler grid is a grid of horizontal and vertical lines that monitors the central visual field. It is an easy, at-home test that allows patients to check their vision daily and detect the formation of an abnormal blood vessel. And, treatments perform better when the disease is detected early. Once detected, most doctors treat AMD with laser therapy. Other forms of treatment include anti-angiogenic drugs or vitamins.

Risk Factors and Prevention Tips

There are certain factors that may put you more at risk for developing macular degeneration. Some of these common risk factors include:

  • Being 50 years of age or older
  • A family history of AMD
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Obesity and an unhealthy diet
  • Hypertension

AMD typically develops as part of the body’s natural aging process. But by eating a well-balanced diet that consists of lots of dark green vegetables, fish that are heavy in omega-3 fatty acids, and limited harmful fats, you can lower your risk of developing AMD or prevent dry AMD from turning into wet AMD. If you think you may be at risk for AMD, contact your eye doctor for a thorough eye exam.

Schedule your complete eye exam today by calling Illinois Eye Center at (309) 243-2400. You can also visit our website for more information on age-related macular degeneration.

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