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February is Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) Month

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of blindness amongst seniors, affecting more than 2 million people in the United States. Once advanced, this disease robs your central vision. However, at earlier stages there are often no symptoms. This is yet another reason why it is important to get regular comprehensive eye examinations, as your eye doctor might find this or other diseases that you don’t even know you have.

What is AMD?

AMD is a degenerative disease that damages the central part of the retina, which is the light sensitive tissue that lines the back of the eye. The retina captures the images that you see and sends them to your brain.  The central part of the retina, which is responsible for your sharp central vision, is called the macula. 

What Can Happen to My Vision With AMD?

In early stages, your vision may not be affected at all or it could be just minimally affected.  However, in late stages the loss of central vision could limit your ability to drive, read, recognize faces, and other important tasks. The good news is patients don’t lose their side vision with AMD. This means that typically they don’t lose their ability to walk around in familiar places such as their home. 

What are the types of AMD?

There are two forms of AMD, termed dry and wet. The dry form is more common, yet luckily has a much lower rate of vision loss.  The wet form is responsible for 90 percent of all AMD-related blindness. 

Is There Treatment for wet AMD?

Yes! Luckily, there is now treatment for wet AMD that can significantly decrease the risk of going blind from the disease.  That is why it is very important to get regular comprehensive eye examinations, as earlier treatment has a better success rate. 

Is there treatment for dry AMD?

There is no treatment that cures dry AMD. However, there are steps you can take to reduce the onset or progression of it.  See the tips below.

Are there vitamins for AMD?

Yes!  The biggest study of vitamins for AMD was called the Age Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS).  In this study, the researchers found that a certain combination of ingredients can slow the progression of AMD.  Another important study was the Women’s Antioxidant Folic Acid Study.  In this research of more than 5,000 women over the age of 40, the investigators found that certain ingredients can slow the onset of macular degeneration. 

Dr. Marc Ellman, founder of the Southwest Eye Institute, created a vitamin supplement that combines the ingredients from these two landmark studies.  The supplement is vegetarian, gluten-free, and made in the United States.  You can learn more at https://luxvitevision.com/

Besides vitamins, what other steps can I take to help prevent or slow the progression of AMD?

  1. Get regular comprehensive eye exams. If you are 65 or older, you should get a dilated eye examination once a year.  This is where the eye doctor puts drops to dilate (make large) the pupil of the eye so he or she can examine the retina for signs of AMD or other eye diseases that you might not even know you have.  If you are younger than 65, you should get dilated eye examinations as well.  Ask your primary care medical professional when you should get a comprehensive eye exam. You can also learn more at https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/eye-exams-101
  2. Don’t smoke. Research has shown that smoking actually doubles your risk of developing macular degeneration.  So if you smoke, quit! 
  3. Know your family’s eye health history. If you have a close relative with AMD then you have a 50 percent greater chance of developing the disease.  Knowing this information could help your medical providers suggest a more aggressive frequency of eye examinations.
  4. Eat a healthy diet. Studies have shown that a healthy diet rich in omega-3s and green leafy vegetables, but low in cholesterol and saturated fats, can reduce your risk of AMD.
  5. Exercise regularly. Besides being great for general health, studies have shown that exercising regularly lowers your risk of AMD as well.
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