The condition we’re talking about is age-related macular degeneration (AMD). This progressive eye condition is the number one cause of severe vision loss and legal blindness in adults over age 65 in the United States.
Now that we’ve sufficiently scared you, we’ll ease up a bit and tell you that, yes, there are ways you and your VSP doctor can combat this condition! But first, a little context.
What is AMD?
AMD is a condition that attacks the macula of the eye and eats away at your clear, “straight ahead” central vision necessary for driving, identifying faces, watching TV, reading your EnVision newsletter (wink), and doing other everyday tasks that require you to see detail.
There are two types of AMD: wet and dry.
“Dry AMD is the most common type and appears when drusen—hard, yellow, extracellular tissue—builds up in the macula of the eye,” says Judy Nguyen, O.D., a VSP doctor from Bella Eye Care Optometry in Newark, CA.
Wet AMD is the result of an abnormal growth of blood vessels underneath the macula. Dr. Nguyen explains, “When these blood vessels leak into the retina, they create blind spots and can permanently affect central vision, sometimes leading to complete vision loss.”
What causes AMD?
There are several causes of macular degeneration, but age is the most common. “Other factors that increase your risk include family history, high-blood pressure, diabetes, excessive fat intake, smoking, and vitamin D deficiency,” says Dr. Nguyen.
The best way to prevent AMD and most other eye conditions is to invest in your overall health. When it comes to AMD, lutein/zeaxanthin, vitamin C, vitamin E, and zinc form your prevention powerhouse.
What are the symptoms of AMD?
Dimming central vision, distortion of letters/words and colors, and difficulty seeing contrast are signs of AMD. If you experience rapid change in or loss of central vision, this is a sign of wet AMD. This type of AMD is the most serious, so you should visit your VSP doctor immediately in order to prevent significant vision loss.
Is there a cure for AMD?
Dr. Nguyen explains, “There is no cure for AMD, but treatments are available to alleviate the effects of the disease, including several FDA-approved, anti-angiogenic drugs, laser therapy, and even certain vitamins.” Another approach is low-vision aids—such as magnifying devices and reading machines—which can help AMD victims use their remaining vision effectively.
“Some eye doctors can conduct genetic testing using a cheek swab to see if you are genetically predisposed to go blind from AMD,” says Dr. Nguyen. “This is one way to determine if eye vitamins could help you or not.”
Be sure you visit your VSP doctor at least once a year to keep your eyes in top shape and to help identify and treat conditions like AMD.The contents in this article are for general information purposes only. Please consult your eye care doctor or physician for actual advice.