February is Age-Related Macular Degeneration Awareness Month. The American Academy of Ophthalmology has designated an entire month to observe the dangerous nature of AMD. There’s a good reason for this.
Age-related macular degeneration is the reason for significant vision loss in more than 11 million people in the U.S. alone. That number is expected to double in size over the next few decades!
In fact, it is the number one cause of blindness for the elderly in America. Unlike other diseases and eye problems, AMD can be fixed- to an extent. Keep reading to learn more about AMD!
What is AMD?
Age-related macular degeneration is a condition that degrades the central part of your retina, known as the macula. Retinal tissue is what handles detecting and decoding the light that enters your eye.
This allows your brain to interpret the information into images. Retinal tissue is also very fragile, and it doesn’t take much damage to cause harm to your eyesight.
AMD comes in two forms: wet and dry. Wet AMD is typically a progression of dry AMD if the condition is left untreated for too long.
This means that dry AMD is the more common of the two. It can occur naturally with age due to macular tissue thinning out. As the tissue thins, clumps of protein form on the macula called drusen.
Other factors besides age can increase the likelihood of developing dry AMD. These include smoking, obesity, and a diet that’s high in saturated fat. Hypertension and family history can also play a role.
Over time, your dry AMD may worsen and trigger the growth of new blood vessels in the retina to supply it with essential nutrients. This is a problem because the new vessels are often prone to leaking fluid.
This can eventually lead to scarring on the macula. Scarring on the macula is what makes wet AMD worse.
While it is much less common, the damage occurs significantly faster than with dry AMD.
Early Detection is Critical to Success
For a long time, there was no treatment for dry AMD, other than taking antioxidant vitamins and reducing your risk factors as much as possible. Wet AMD could be managed with eye injections every month or two.
Now, things are looking even better for AMD patients. This is thanks to a variety of treatments on the horizon.
They could lead to huge breakthroughs in the treatment of both wet and dry AMD.
Potential treatments include:
- Radiation therapy to slow the growth of new blood vessels.
- Longer lasting injection therapy.
- Gene therapy for helping the eye create the chemicals necessary to reverse wet AMD.
- Immune system boosting drugs to prevent dry AMD.
As with any health concern, prevention is better than treatment. Reducing your controllable risk factors is a good way to get started, but AMD can happen in those that are healthy as well.
Early detection is the only way to stop AMD before it damages your eyesight. This is why seeing your eye doctor for regular eye exams is so important.
Schedule an appointment at Kovach Eye Institute in South Barrington, IL, now!