February has been designated as Age-related Macular Degeneration Awareness Month by the American Academy of Ophthalmology. ARMD (or AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in people over age 50. It affects more than 2 million people in the U.S.
The staff at Vision First wants to make sure that you understand how to protect yourself from this serious eye disease. Keep reading to learn more about AMD!
What Is AMD?
ARMD is a deterioration of the retina and choroid, located at the back of the eye. The macula is a small area in the retina which allows us to see clearly.
There are two types of macular degeneration: dry and wet. While macular degeneration does not cause total blindness, it can impact important aspects of our lives.
In later stages, both types of ARMD involve loss of central vision, which affects the ability to read, drive, recognize faces, and do close work.
Can You Treat AMD?
Ophthalmologists now have tools available to diagnose early symptoms of the disease. There are also some effective treatments available to offer to patients.
Many people do not notice the early-stage symptoms of this debilitating disease. Minimizing the damage of ARMD depends on knowing that you have the disease and getting treated early.
Although there is no vaccination or foolproof way to prevent ARMD, there are many action steps that you can take to safeguard your vision.
- Get regular comprehensive eye examinations. Eye doctors recommend having a baseline exam at age 40, which is when early symptoms of ARMD might occur. By age 65, you should get a comprehensive eye examination every year or two, even if your vision seems fine. This is different from a simple vision screening. A comprehensive exam involves having your pupils dilated with eye drops so that your eye care specialist can see the retina at the back of the eye.
- Quit smoking. Smokers are twice as likely to develop ARMD as non-smokers.
- Eat a well-balanced diet. Many studies show that eating a diet full of dark green leafy vegetables, fruit, nuts, and fresh fish may reduce the risk of AMD. Foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, are especially important.
- Exercise regularly. People who exercise at least 3 times a week can reduce their risk of developing wet AMD by 70%.
- Protect your eyes from dangerous UV rays. Wear a hat with a visor and high-quality sunglasses that offer 100% protection from UV and HEV rays whenever you are exposed to the sun.
- Find out about your family’s eye history. If you have a close relative with ARMD, you have a 50% greater chance of developing it yourself. If you are at risk, your doctor may recommend more frequent eye examinations.
- Keep your blood pressure under control.
- Take the right kind of vitamins. Research has shown that certain vitamins can slow the progression of intermediate ARMD. If you have symptoms of macular degeneration, take supplements. These should include lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil).
Wondering if you or someone you love may have AMD? Schedule an appointment at VisionFirst Eye Center in Birmingham, AL now!