According to the American Society of Retina Specialists, an estimated 15 million Americans have age-related macular degeneration, and AMD is the leading cause of central vision loss and legal blindness among adults over age 65. Over 1.7 million Americans have the advanced form of the disease. This disease is most common in people over 60 and the risk of AMD increases with age, other factors that may increase your risk of macular degeneration include:
- Smoking. Smoking increases a person's chances of developing AMD by two to five fold. Because the retina has a high rate of oxygen consumption, anything that affects oxygen delivery to the retina may affect vision. Smoking causes oxidative damage, which may contribute to the development and progression of this disease.
- Family History of AMD. Scientific evidence shows that genes may play a role in the development of nearly three out of four cases of this devastating eye disease.
- Gender. Females are more likely to develop AMD than males.
- Race. Caucasians are more likely to develop AMD than other races.
- Prolonged Sun Exposure. Some studies suggest an association between AMD and cumulative eye damage from ultraviolet (UV) and other light.
- Diet. Diets that are elevated in fat, cholesterol and high glycemic index foods, and low in antioxidants and green leafy vegetables may be more likely to develop AMD.
- Obesity. A person with a BMI (body mass index, a measure of body fat) of greater than 30 is 2.5 times more likely to develop the disease than a person with a lower BMI.
Types of AMD and Symptoms
- Dry AMD. This form is quite common. About 80% (8 out of 10) of people who have AMD have the dry form. Dry AMD is when parts of the macula get thinner with age and tiny clumps of protein called drusen grow. You slowly lose central vision. There is no way to treat dry AMD yet.
- Wet AMD. This form is less common but much more serious. Wet AMD is when new, abnormal blood vessels grow under the retina. These vessels may leak blood or other fluids, causing scarring of the macula. You lose vision faster with wet AMD than with dry AMD.
The earlier you're diagnosed with AMD, the better your chances of successful treatment. Certain treatments can potentially stop vision loss. Injections of anti-VEGF drugs may actually restore some vision in people with wet AMD. Additional ways to lower your risk of developing AMD include:
• Quit smoking or never start.
• Follow a heart healthy diet.
• Exercise regularly.
• Maintain a healthy weight within a normal BMI.
• Schedule regular eye exams.
• Obtain family medical history and share with your ophthalmologist.
There has been significant improvement in understanding the causes and the treatment of AMD. Early diagnosis of macular degeneration can help save your vision. It's also important to inform your ophthalmologist if you have a family history of AMD. Your ophthalmologist will recommend steps to reduce your risk of vision loss. Schedule an appointment with Shofner Vision Center online or by calling (615) 340-4733. Your eyes are precious to you, they are the same to us too.