A Closer Look At Age-Related Macular Degeneration Prevention

Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) is one of the leading causes of vision loss in people over the age of 65. 

What Is ARMD?

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The eye has many components.  The central vision area is called the macula. The macula is 250 microns (one-quarter of a millimeter) thick and 5mm wide.  Our central vision and color vision come from the macula. 

Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) occurs when the macula is damaged due to a disease process commonly associated with aging and can lead to the loss of central vision. Other factors such as family history, smoking, and extensive UV light exposure can also increase your risk of developing ARMD.  While ARMD doesn’t result in total blindness, vision loss in some patients can impact activities such as recognizing faces, reading, driving and engaging in daily tasks.

Types Of ARMD

There are 2 types of ARMD: Dry and Wet.

Dry ARMD is the most common, accounting for around 90% of cases. This is when the macula becomes damaged by the disruption of the normal metabolic processes of the retina. Deterioration occurs slowly and has three stages: early, intermediate, and advanced. There is no available treatment to cure ARMD, but there are ways you can potentially slow further damage and make the most of your remaining vision.

Wet ARMD is less common but more serious because it can cause damage more quickly. Wet ARMD occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow within the macula and leak. It can cause rapid vision loss, but fortunately, there are treatments available. The treatments can’t undo the damage already done, but they can slow damage.

Catching the conversion of Dry to Wet ARMD in a timely manner is extremely important. 

AMD Symptoms

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Most early and intermediate dry ARMD patients experience little to no symptoms. In advanced dry ARMD and wet ARMD, you may begin to notice:

  • straight lines starting to appear crooked
  • blurry central vision
  • possible blank spots in vision
  • colors appearing less bright
  • trouble seeing in low light conditions

ARMD Diagnosis

Comprehensive dilated eye exams that may include fundus photography and OCT scans, are crucial in the detection and monitoring of ARMD.  An OCT scan provides our eye doctors with a  3D cross sectional image of the back of the eye showing each tissue layer. 

With the ability to view the different layers of the retina, our eye doctors can identify changes in the macula at an earlier stage.  This allows them to determine the best course of action.

There is also a test that can help monitor ARMD at home called an Amsler grid.  The grid is a series of squares with a central dot. Patients are instructed to focus on the dot with one eye, noting any blurriness, waviness, darkness or missing areas. 

How To Slow Age-Related Macular Degeneration

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Dry ARMD coincides with aging, and although there is no way to prevent it, your eyes will always benefit from regular eye exams to monitor progression and find change. A healthy diet and a smoke-free lifestyle, with plenty of exercise are just some of the ways to slow age-related macular degeneration. Although there is no way to stop progression, some supplements, such as vitamins C, E, lutein, zinc, and zeaxanthin, can potentially slow the progression of ARMD. 

A referral to a retinal specialist will be made if indicated.  If treatment is necessary, this may involve intravitreal injections. Intravitreal injections attempt to stop bleeding and leakage from abnormal blood vessels in the back of the eye. Multiple injections are often required to stabilize and slow vision loss. 

Living With Vision Loss

Age-related macular degeneration can make even the simplest tasks seem daunting.  But, don’t lose heart! 

We live in an age where innovative solutions are at our fingertips. Low-vision devices, such as magnifying glasses and digital tools, can dramatically enhance visual clarity. Moreover, small adjustments such as improving lighting conditions or enlarging text size on your device can transform daily tasks from strenuous to manageable. 

Book An Appointment

If you haven’t had an eye exam in the last year or have noticed any changes to your vision, we highly recommend contacting Family EyeCare to see one of our eye doctors in Quincy, IL.  Schedule an appointment today for peace of mind.

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