February Is AMD/Low Vision Awareness Month

AMD is Age-related Macular Degeneration.

 

Low vision has several definitions, some are legal and others are medical or functional. A generally accepted definition is: low vision is vision that, even with maximum correction by surgery, medicine, therapy, eyeglasses or contacts, seriously impairs performance of daily tasks. It can have many causes, including AMD.

 

The Basics of AMD

 

The retina is located inside the eye, along the back and sides. It responds to stimulation by light. This stimulation is sent to the brain by means of the optic nerve. The result is vision. The macula is the most sensitive part of the retina. It is located on the central part of the retina, at the back of the eye.

 

If the macula is not functioning properly, for whatever reason, the person may experience blurred or wavy central vision or a blind spot in the central vision. AMD affects over a million Americans. It is the leading cause of loss of vision among people 60 and over. As the large Baby Boomer generation reaches this age, we can expect to see an increase in the number of people with AMD.

 

There are two types of AMD:

  • Wet AMD
  • Dry AMD

 

Wet AMD is the result of unhealthy blood vessels growing under the macula. When these vessels leak, the blood shifts the macula from its proper place in the eye. This can happen rapidly and causes serious loss of vision. Wet AMD often occurs in both eyes. Treatments for wet AMD have had limited success. But newer research is offering promising results

 

Dry AMD is the result of the breakdown in the macula’s light sensitivity. It is a gradual process and results in slow loss of central vision. Dry AMD often occurs in only one eye. If dry AMD is diagnosed in the early stages, serious vision loss may be prevented.

 

The risk factors for AMD are:

  • Smoking (YES, smoking … again!)
  • Obesity
  • Race – whites are more likely to lose vision from AMD than African-Americans. Information on Hispanic and Asian Americans is limited.
  • Family history of AMD
  • Gender – women are more at risk than men.

 

For more information on AMD, access NIH Senior Health.

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Mary Lou Bernardo, PhD, MSN

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