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Age-Related Macular Degeneration And The Importance Of Regular Eye Exams

Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is a common cause of vision impairment in people over 50. Although it rarely causes total vision loss, it can hinder your ability to perform activities such as reading and driving. Although at this time, AMD is considered incurable, there are ways you can help prevent it or slow its progress. That's why regular eye exams are so important for older adults.

Understanding Macular Degeneration

To understand AMD, you first need to know a little about the eye's anatomy. Lining the back of the eye is a thin membrane called the retina. The retina's job is to focus the light entering through the pupil and transmit the resulting image to the optic nerve. The optic nerve then transmits the image to the brain, allowing you to see.

In the center of the retina is the macula, which is responsible for focusing the center of your vision field. It allows you to recognize faces, symbols, and colors and gives you the ability to read and see things in fine detail. As a person ages, the macula can deteriorate, affecting the central vision.

There are two types of AMD: wet and dry. Eighty percent of AMD cases are dry. It occurs when the light-sensitive cells in the macula degrade, causing gradual deterioration of eyesight. In the wet form of the disease, the blood vessels growing underneath the macula leak blood into your retina, causing blind spots and loss of central vision. This eventually creates a scar on the retina, which results in permanent vision loss.

Detecting and Treating AMD

Because AMD usually progresses slowly, you may not notice any signs for many years. You may first notice blurriness or blank spots in the center of your vision, which, over time, get larger. Colors may seem dimmer, or straight lines may appear wavy. By the time you notice any of these symptoms, the disease may have already caused permanent vision loss, which is why ophthalmologists and other eye care specialists recommend yearly eye exams for people over 50.

To detect AMD, your eye doctor will use eye drops to dilate your pupils, then check for signs of AMD or other conditions. It is quick and painless, although your eyes will be very light sensitive for an hour or so.

You can reduce your chances of getting AMD through lifestyle changes such as eating healthy, getting regular exercise, and quitting smoking. If you are diagnosed with AMD, your ophthalmologist will recommend those same lifestyle changes, along with treatments such as vitamins, medications, laser therapy, and eye exercises.

To learn more, reach out to an ophthalmology eye care clinic.