Adult Eye Health—Prevent Vision Loss from AMD

Each of us is maturing. This natural progression can give us wisdom, perspective and greater self-control.

As we enter our 50s and 60s and beyond, there’s a natural increase in our risk for vision loss. A leading cause of adult vision loss in the U.S. is age-related macular degeneration (AMD). You should know about it.

 

What Is Age-Related Macular Degeneration?

AMD  is a disease that affects the cells in the macula, the central area of the retina that’s responsible for seeing fine detail. In its early stages there are usually no noticeable symptoms, but with time AMD may degrade your sharp, central vision—making it difficult to read and drive.

There are two general types of AMD: wet and dry.

Dry AMD —Light-sensitive cells in the macula slowly break down, usually over the course of years or decades, leading patients to gradually lose central vision. Another symptom is that straight lines may start to appear crooked.

Wet AMD — A minority of dry AMD patients at some point abruptly develop wet AMD. With this condition, rapid vision loss is caused by abnormal blood vessels growing under the macula and leaking blood and fluid into the retinal tissue. Blurred vision and a sudden increase in distortion are common early symptoms. This form of AMD damages the macula quickly, but with prompt treatment vision can usually be stabilized or even improved.

In both conditions, regular eye exams will allow your health care provider to diagnose the disease earlier. Treatment can then start sooner, which can help slow vision loss.

 

What Are the Risks for Age-Related Macular Degeneration?

  • Age — The risk for AMD  increases with age. While it’s rare under age 50, about 1 in 6 adults over 75 have AMD to some degree.
  • Smoking —Smoking has consistently been associated with both the development and progression of AMD.
  • Family history — If someone in your immediate family has had AMD, your risk is higher.
  • Gender — About 65% of AMD patients are female. This may be simply because women tend to live longer.
  • Race — Caucasians are at greater risk for AMD, as are those with light-colored irises.
  • Obesity — High body mass index (BMI) is thought to confer a risk for late AMD.
  • High blood pressure — Poor cardiovascular health, in general, and high blood pressure in particular, may promote AMD.  
  • Sedentary lifestyle — Regular exercise improves cardiovascular health and is thought to be protective against AMD.
  • Extended time in the sun — Some studies suggest ultraviolet (UV) rays may damage the retina. This can boost your risk for AMD.

 

How Can You Protect Your Eye Health?

You can take practical steps to protect your eye health. As an added benefit, these steps can help improve your overall health!

 

If you haven’t had time for an eye exam lately, it’s not too late. You can find a qualified eye care professional nearby. Get professional help with a range of vision concerns — from poor vision to serious eye health issues. Eye care is one of the many health care services Aurora provides.

Aurora Health Care is a not-for-profit health care organization.

Meet the Author

 Spencer W. Rogers, MD is a ophthalmologist at Aurora Health Center in Summit, WI.

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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