When it comes to our health, some issues are more easily recognized than others. Age-related macular degeneration, also known as AMD, is one of those illnesses that isn’t that well known outside of your eye doctor’s workplace. Yet AMD is a common eye condition and a leading cause of vision loss among people aged 50 and older! So in honor of Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) Month, we think it’s important to give this illness a little extra attention – and hope you’ll do the same.
What is AMD?
AMD is a painless, progressive eye disease known for damaging the macula. Don’t laugh: it may sound silly, but the macula is super important! This small spot near the center of our retina is vital in creating a clear direct line of sight. According to the National Eye Institute, “The macula is made up of millions of light-sensing cells that provide sharp, central vision. It is the most sensitive part of the retina, which is located at the back of the eye. The retina turns light into electrical signals and then sends these electrical signals through the optic nerve to the brain, where they are translated into the images we see. When the macula is damaged, the center of your field of view may appear blurry, distorted, or dark.”
Put simply – if the macula is damaged, it becomes harder and harder to see.
What are AMD symptoms – what does this illness look like?
AMD may progress quickly or slowly – it varies from patient to patient. But whether the damage develops bit by bit or very suddenly, it’s likely to manifest as a blurred area near the center of your vision. According to the National Eye Institute, “Over time, the blurred area may grow larger or you may develop blank spots in your central vision. Objects also may not appear to be as bright as they used to be.”
What causes it?
We’re sorry to report that the exact cause of macular degeneration isn’t known. Experts do know the condition is more likely to develop as the eye ages, although it can develop at any time and at any age.
Experts also know that smoking doubles the risk of AMD; that AMD is more common among Caucasians than among African-Americans or Hispanics/Latinos; and that people with a family history of the illness are more likely to develop AMD themselves.
Does AMD cause blindness?
It’s important to note that AMD by itself does not cause you to completely go blind. The reason it’s so serious is that losing your central field of vision, and only having peripheral visuals, quickly gets in the way of the most mundane tasks. From seeing faces, to driving, to reading, to housework, many patients struggle to maintain independence as their direct line of sight goes blurry or entirely blank.
What can I do about it?
The good news is that there are things you can do to keep your eyes healthy and reduce your risk of losing some of your sight:
- Avoid or quit smoking
- Exercise and maintain a healthy weight
- Eat a healthy diet with plenty of leafy greens and fish
- Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol in check
All of these are healthy habits that can help prevent or reduce your risk of AMD. Regular eye exams are a must as well! Eye exams with an eye doctor are the best way to ensure any problems are caught before symptoms begin to develop. The sooner an issue is caught, the more that can be done about it – so if you’re overdue for an annual eye exam, now is the time to schedule one!
We hope this blog has inspired you to visit the doctor and ensure your eyes are nice and healthy! P.S. Should it come up that you need a new prescription as well, please consider Phonetic Eyewear for your next eyewear purchase! Phonetic Eyewear may not be a leader in preventing AMD, but we do offer glasses designed to combat the effects of Digital Eye Strain and alleviate the symptoms associated with Computer Vision Syndrome. So if you’re in need of some new computer eyewear, we’ve got your back!