Age-Related Macular Degeneration
It seems as though every major disease has an “awareness month.” And that’s a good thing, as awareness and factual information are your first lines of defense when it comes to early detection, treatment, or hope for treatment.
In the case of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), awareness is especially critical, as it is the number one cause of severe vision loss and legal blindness in Americans over age 60. And, as the baby boomer population ages, it’s on its way to becoming a full-blown epidemic.
What is AMD?
AMD is a devastating, progressive eye disease that causes damage to the macula, a small spot near the center of the retina that is needed for sharp central vision.
For some people, vision loss is slow and gradual. For others, the disease progresses faster and may lead to a loss of vision in one or both eyes. As AMD progresses, a blurred area near the center of vision is a common symptom. Over time, the blurred area may grow larger or you may develop blank spots in your central vision. Objects may not appear to be as bright as they used to be.
AMD by itself doesn’t lead to total blindness. However, the loss of central vision in AMD can interfere with simple everyday activities, including the ability to see faces, drive, navigate stairs, or to do close work like reading, writing, or cooking. Advanced AMD can severely limit independence, and can have an emotional impact on patients and their family members.
Wet & Dry AMD
There are two types of AMD - "wet" or neovascular and "dry," or atrophic.
There is no cure for AMD, but treatments are available for the wet form of the disease. There is no treatment for the dry form, but “loss of vision counseling” as well as training and special devices can help promote independence and a return to some favorite activities.
An early symptom of wet AMD is straight lines that appear wavy
Because dry AMD can turn into wet AMD at any time, the National Eye Institute (NEI) recommends you get an Amsler grid from your eye care professional (you may also download one from the link below) and use it every day to test your vision. Check each eye separately. Cover one eye and look at the grid, then cover your other eye and look at the grid. If you detect any changes in the appearance of this grid (lines that are wavy, broken, or missing) or in your everyday vision, call your eye care provider.
Studies have determined that diet and nutrition supplements as well as various lifestyle factors play a role in AMD.
If you have intermediate AMD, your doctor may recommend taking a supplement that has been proven to slow the progression and vision loss from AMD.
RECOMMENDED DAILY AMD ANTIOXIDANT SUPPLEMENTATION
• 80 milligrams of zinc oxide (other forms such as zinc acetate may be acceptable and doses as low as 25 mg may be OK)
• 2 milligrams of cupric oxide (to counteract copper deficiency induced by the zinc)
• 500 milligrams of vitamin C
• 400 international units (IU) of vitamin E (do not take higher doses)
• 10 milligrams of lutein
• 2 milligrams of zeaxanthin
There are a lot of things you can do that may slow down the progression of macular degeneration and vision loss. Pay attention to these daily habits and you can help fight the progression of AMD:
Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
Eat fish twice a week
Protect your eyes from exposure to harmful sunlight
Read more about the latest AMD study, known as AREDS 2.