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What is Macular Degeneration and How can I prevent it?

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What is Macular Degeneration?

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss and blindness in North Americans who are over the age of 65.  AMD causes a gradual decrease in central vision due to the break down of the macula. There are two types: dry and wet AMD.

What is the difference between the dry and wet form?

Dry AMD causes gradual blurring of vision.  As dry AMD progresses, patients see a blurred spot in their central vision. The earliest sign of dry macular degeneration is drusen.  90% of patients that suffer from macular degeneration have the dry form.

Wet AMD can cause a decrease in central vision quickly.  It is due to abnormal blood vessel growth beneath the macula that can bleed and cause the macula to swell. An early symptom of wet AMD is that straight lines may appear wavy. If this occurs, contact your optometrist at once.

Am I at risk for macular degeneration?

Commonly named risk factors for developing macular degeneration are:

Aging – People over the age of 60 are at a greater risk for developing AMD. A recent study found that people in middle-age have about a 2 percent risk of getting AMD, but this risk increased to nearly 30 percent in those over age 75.

Smoking – Smoking is one of the biggest risk factors for developing AMD. Studies have shown that smoking is associated in up to 25% of cases of AMD with severe vision loss. Another study found that people that are present in second hand smoke double their risk for developing AMD

Obesity – Overweight patients that suffer from macular degeneration, double their risk of developing severe AMD. Studies show that patients who do suffer from macular degeneration and exercise at least three times per week, decrease their risk of advancing.

Heredity – It has been shown that a family history of macular degeneration can increase one’s chance of developing AMD.

Race  – Caucasians are more likely to develop macular degeneration than other races. Studies associate that with lighter eye colour. Scientists believe people with darker eye colours have more pigment to fight off the degradation of the macula.

Gender – Women are more at risk than men to develop AMD.

Will I be able to tell that I have Macular Degeneration?

In the early stages of AMD, often no vision changes will be noticed. It is important to start treatment as early as possible. This is why it is necessary to have routine eye examinations with your Optometrist.

How Can I Prevent Macular Degeneration?

Regular eye exams with your Optometrist are the best way to ensure that your eyes stay healthy.  Your Optometrist can diagnose macular degeneration and recommend supplements and lifestyle changes that help prevent the progression of AMD. If necessary, your Optometrist can refer you to an Ophthalmologist if extensive treatment is needed. Under an Optometrist’s care, you can help limit the decline in vision loss due to AMD.

Additional Information and Links:

Here is a link with some additional information on macular degeneration http://www.allaboutvision.com/conditions/amd.htm
Here is a great link that explains eye exams in detail http://www.allaboutvision.com/eye-exam/
Greater Vancouver Web Directory

Written by Avi Sahota

Dr. Avi Sahota is originally from Surrey, BC. Dr. Sahota has completed 8 years of studies in the ocular and health sciences to become an Optometrist. He graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Bachelor of Science in Biology. Further education was undertaken in Oregon at the Pacific University College of Optometry, where he received his Doctor of Optometry degree. He has also been elected to the Beta Kappa Sigma International Optometric Honor Society. He is also a member of BC Doctors of Optometry and the Canadian Association of Optometrists.
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