Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness among older Americans, but new treatments have dramatically changed the course of this disease over the last 10 years, making AMD more manageable than ever before. During AMD Awareness Month in February, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) along with Shofner Vision Center is reminding people with AMD that they can save their vision thanks to recent treatment advances, but early detection is a critical first step. The AAO offers six things you should know about AMD.
- Symptoms - AMD may not have noticeable symptoms in the early stages. Early diagnosis allows for timely treatment and address any vision changes or issues. The AAO urges adults with no symptoms to have an eye exam at least by age 40. After age 65, an exam every one-to-two years is important.
- Genetics - Having a close family member with AMD increases your risk of getting the disease. Before your next eye exam, speak with your family about their eye health history and be sure to inform your eye doctor. Catching AMD early could better your chances of saving your sight!
- Vitamins - If you have AMD, you may have heard that the AREDS 2 vitamin formula can help slow the disease. Clinical trials show that these vitamins for AMD can help with intermediate or advanced AMD in one eye. Trials have not shown that they prevent AMD in people who do not have the disease.
- Smoking - A total of 13 studies found a statistically significant association between smoking and AMD with increased risk of AMD of two- to three-fold in current-smokers compared with never-smokers. Smoking also increases the speed at which the disease worsens. If you smoke, you are twice as likely to get AMD compared with a non-smoker. The good news is that stopping smoking is the best action you can take to lower your risk of AMD.
- Diet - Studies have shown that foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids are good for eye health.. Other nutrients that help eye health include lutein, zeaxanthin, zinc and vitamin C. To help cut AMD risk and maintain eye health, eat foods like: cold-water fish (such as salmon and tuna), citrus fruits, leafy greens (kale or spinach), broccoli, squash, and black-eyed peas.
- Exercise - Over the last decade, several studies have found a link between regular exercise and reducing the risk of eye diseases like cataracts, glaucoma and wet age-related macular degeneration. One study found that exercising three times a week reduced the risk of getting wet AMD by 70%. Studies also show that exercise reduces the risk of all stages of AMD.
Thanks to major advances in treatment, such as the use of anti-VEGF drugs, fewer people are going blind. “There are new options available for AMD that may slow the disease and keep you from having a severe loss of vision,” says Dr. Shofner. The AAO also recommends those with AMD use The Amsler grid daily to check for changes. Learn how to use the Amsler grid to track progression and risk of AMD-related vision loss.
Don’t wait until you notice problems with your eyesight or have eye discomfort. The best defense against AMD (and other eye diseases) is to get a comprehensive eye exam, even if you don't need glasses or contacts. Contact Shofner Vision Center to schedule an appointment online or call us at (615) 340-4733.