February is Age-Related Macular Degeneration Awareness & Low Vision Awareness Month

Know Your Risk Factors For Age Related Macular Degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of blindness and severe vision loss among Americans ages 65 and over. AMD can lead to permanent loss of central vision, which is essential for driving, reading and recognizing faces. Knowing your risk factors, being aware of your family history and keeping regular appointments with an ophthalmologist – a medical doctor who specializes in vision and eye health – can help reduce your risks for vision loss from AMD.

The top five risk factors for AMD are:

  • Age: The risk of developing macular degeneration jumps from about 2 percent for people in their 50s to nearly 30 percent for people over age 75.
  • Family History: People who have a close family member with the disease have a greater chance of developing AMD themselves.
  • Smoking: Research shows a link between smoking cigarettes and developing the more serious form of AMD, called wet AMD.
  • Obesity: People who are obese are more likely to develop advanced AMD.
  • Hypertension: High blood pressure – or hypertension – is also a high risk factor for developing AMD.

If you have any of these risk factors, you should schedule an appointment with your ophthalmologist for a dilated eye exam. Your ophthalmologist may recommend certain preventive measures that can reduce your risk of vision loss from AMD.

Those who are at risk should also know the symptoms of wet AMD, the form most likely to cause rapid and serious vision loss. Symptoms from wet AMD include sudden, noticeable loss or distortion of vision, such as seeing wavy lines or developing blind spots. See an ophthalmologist right away if these symptoms occur. Current treatments for wet AMD provide an excellent chance of stopping vision loss and may actually restore some vision when macular degeneration develops. Early diagnosis of wet AMD can lead to more successful treatment.

For some with vision loss due to AMD, eyeglasses and surgery cannot help to restore vision. For these individuals, Low Vision therapy and devices can be very helpful. For more information regarding Low Vision, click here: Low Vision. To see what Low Vision devices can help you, make an appointment with Dr. Steigerwald, our Low Vision Specialist.