February is recognized as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) month. AMD is the leading cause of severe vision loss among Americans ages 65 and over.
Reduce your chance for vision loss from macular degeneration by:
- knowing the risk factors for AMD
- knowing your family medical history
- keeping regular appointments with your eye care professionals
Wet AMD is the most severe form of the disease. It can lead to permanent loss of central vision. Your central vision is essential for driving, reading, and recognizing faces.
"The past few years have been marked by significant improvement in understanding the causes and the treatment of AMD," says George Williams, MD, an AMD expert. "New research and clinical advances are helping us to better treat both the 'dry' AMD and 'wet' forms of AMD. One strong risk factor that people may not be aware of is family history. It's important to find out whether your relatives have had AMD, and to tell your ophthalmologist if you have a history of AMD in your family. Knowing your risks can save your sight."
Know Your Risks and Save Your Sight
Here are the top 5 risk factors for AMD:
- Being over the age of 60
- Having a family history of AMD
- Cigarette smoking
People with two of these risk factors should schedule an appointment with an ophthalmologist. Your ophthalmologist may recommend steps to reduce your risk of vision loss.
People who are at risk should know the symptoms of wet AMD, the form most likely to cause rapid and serious vision loss. Symptoms include:
- sudden, noticeable loss of vision, or
- sudden distortion of vision, such as seeing "wavy" lines.
See an eye care professional right away if these symptoms occur. Treatments for wet AMD provide an excellent chance of stopping vision loss. They may actually restore some vision when macular degeneration develops. Earlier diagnosis of wet AMD gives a better chance of successful treatment.
You can control some AMD risk factors, such as smoking and diet, to reduce the risk of vision loss. One way to reduce AMD risk is to quit smoking or never start. You can't control all your risks, however. For example, you can't do anything about your genetics. Knowing family medical history and sharing it with your ophthalmologist is an important step to protect your vision.
For patients at high risk for developing late-stage wet AMD, taking a specific, AMD dietary supplement lowers that risk by 25 percent. Patients should check with their optometrist before starting any dietary supplement.