February is Age-related Macular Degeneration Awareness Month. Age-related macular degeneration or AMD is the top cause of critical vision loss among people 50 or older. With AMD, you lose central vision due to damage to the macula—the part of the retina that processes what you see directly in front of you.
In this blog post, we’ll discuss the main types, treatments, risk factors, and symptoms so you know the signs and can seek professional help early on.
Types & symptoms of AMD
There are two main types of AMD—wet AMD and dry AMD. Dry AMD is the most common form and occurs as the macula thins over time due to aging or damage from ultraviolet light exposure. Wet AMD develops as abnormal blood vessels grow behind the macula and bleed or leak into the retina. This type is much more serious and results in rapid vision loss if not treated quickly.
Both forms of AMD can cause large blind spots in your central vision, distorted vision where straight lines appear wavy, blurry or fuzzy vision, and difficulty recognizing familiar faces. Additionally, losing your central vision from AMD can make it difficult to drive, read, and perform close-up work.
Risk factors for AMD
Several risk factors can increase your chances of developing AMD, including:
- Age (50 or older)
- A family history of AMD
- Being Caucasian
- Having light-colored irises
Women are also more susceptible to AMD than males are, not because of genetics, but because they live longer.
While some groups are at higher risk than others, it’s important to note that anyone aged 50 or older can develop this condition, regardless of lifestyle choices or family history. Additionally, people under the age of 50 can get this disease, although it is rare. If you have any of these risk factors or are 50 or older, make sure you schedule regular eye exams so your doctor can spot changes early. Early diagnosis and treatment can help minimize further damage and preserve remaining vision.
Treatment options for AMD
Treatment options vary depending on the type of AMD and its severity. For wet AMD patients, anti-VEGF injections help to block abnormal blood vessels, slowing their leakage and preventing vision loss. Other treatment options include laser surgery and photodynamic therapy. While there are no treatments available for dry AMD, patients may benefit from lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking or eating healthier.
At Omaha Primary EyeCare in Elkhorn, NE, we offer comprehensive eye exams to detect early signs of AMD and other eye diseases. If you suspect you have AMD, don’t hesitate to contact our office today for an appointment! Starting treatment early can slow disease progression and alleviate symptoms.