Throughout the human life cycle, our bodies and health tend to undergo different stages of change. Some of those changes may appear to be more apparent while others may be more subtle. As the human body ages, different functions will be affected, including one’s vision. Age can play a significant role in impacting one’s ability to read, see faces, drive, or conduct certain day-to-day activities. This condition, known as Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is what leads to the permanent loss of vision and is considered the number one cause of blindness, impacting approximately 14 million people around the world, and is more common within developed countries such as the United States.
February is dedicated to AMD, and given the subtle development of this condition, understanding the background, symptoms, risks, and treatment will give you a proactive lens on vision health.
By definition, AMD is a deterioration of the macula, which is a central part of the retina located in the back of the eye. The macula is responsible for our central vision and is responsible for the colors and minute details that we are able to see. The cells in the macula are what detect light and signal our brains to translate what we see into images. Normally, our cells have a certain lifespan and should undergo a process of renewal. As the human body ages, some of those cells, as those in the macula may not renew as they should, hence the name, “age-related macular degeneration”.
While macular degeneration is more associated with aging, it can also impact children and young adults. This condition is called Stargardt disease or juvenile macular degeneration.
There are two types of macular degeneration:
- The DRY form of macular generation occurs with yellow deposits, also known as drusen, in the macular. Over time, this wears on your eye sensitivity leading to blind spots in your vision.
- The WET form of macular generation is suggested to occur in the more aggressive and later stages of vision loss. This happens when blood vessels grow underneath the macula and leak blood and fluid into the retina. This can result in the permanent loss of your central vision.
Risks and SymptomsUnfortunately, AMD is a subtly growing disease that may not be as evident in the beginning. Some of the signs you would want to pay attention to include:
- A difficulty to read fine print, recognize people’s faces, or see clearly when you’re driving
- A difficulty distinguishing colors
- Seeing dark blurry patches in your central vision area
- A difficulty distinguishing straight lines
Staying Ahead of AMDAMD is, unfortunately, a naturally occurring disease found more commonly in Caucasians and Asians, according to the World Health Organization. While there is not a cure for AMD, scheduling annual or bi-annual eye exams is important for detecting and treating it. By doing so or encouraging your loved ones to do so, you are remaining proactive about your vision health and working with your eye doctor to identify treatments that help you maintain your quality of life and vision over time.
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