Eye Sight : Know Your Risk for AMD

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a common eye condition that causes damage to the macula, which is located at the center of the retina and is the part of the eye needed for central vision. When the macula is damaged, the center of your field of view may appear blurry or dark. People who have AMD tend to have good peripheral vision; they just can't see directly in front of them.

There are two forms of AMD: dry and wet. In the dry form, toxic byproducts accumulate and form yellow spots called drusen. There's a yellow pigment (lutein) deposited in the retina to help prevent toxicity from ultra-violet light. This pigment layer can erode, further limiting the body's ability to clear toxic materials from the eye.

In the wet form, blood vessels may invade the retina and start to bleed, causing sudden vision loss. However, this may be reversed—it's important to contact an eye doctor immediately if you experience vision loss or any other eye problems.

About 90 percent of people who have AMD have the dry, slowly progressive form of the condition. In some people, AMD progresses so slowly that vision loss in one or both eyes may occur over a long time. The most common symptom is a blurred area in the center of your vision. This area may grow larger over time, or you may develop blank spots in your central vision. AMD does not lead to complete blindness, but the loss of central vision can interfere with everyday activities.

The major risk factor for AMD is age; this condition is most likely to occur after age 60. Other risk factors include a family history of AMD, smoking (studies show smoking doubles the risk of AMD), and race (AMD is more common among Caucasians than among people of African American or Hispanic descent). High blood pressure and atherosclerosis also increase the risk for AMD.

While there is no cure for AMD, there is natural support for people who suffer from or at risk for the dry form of AMD:

• Antioxidants: The seven-year ARED (Age-Related Eye Disease) study found that antioxidants beta-carotene, vitamins C and E, and zinc helped to reduce the risk of vision loss from moderate to severe macular degeneration. Lutein also shows promise for reducing AMD risk.

• Omega-3 fats: The omega-3 fatty acid DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is a major component of the retina, and supplementation is essential to rebuild the retina and help repair damage. In one study, supplementation with omega-3s led to significant improvements in vision acuity for 100 percent of participants with dry AMD within for and a half months.

Since the early stages of AMD may start without symptoms, the National Eye Institute recommends a comprehensive eye exam to detect AMD. This may include a visual acuity test (an eye chart to measure how well you see at distances), a dilated eye exam (drops are placed in the eyes to dilate the pupils to provide a better view of the back of your eye), and a fluorescein angiogram (fluorescent dye is injected into your arm, and pictures are taken as the dye passes through the blood vessels in your eye, making it possible to see leaking blood vessels).

2014 Kristy Erickson






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