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February is AMD (Age-Related Macular Degeneration) and Low Vision Awareness Month

By Johnson City Eye Clinic

February is AMD (Age-Related Macular Degeneration)  and Low Vision Awareness MonthAMD is the number one cause of vision loss in senior citizens.  Age related macular degeneration often results in “low vision” or significant vision loss which cannot be helped by normal correction such as eyeglasses or contacts lens.

Age-related macular degeneration is a complex, multifactorial disease with progressive degeneration of the retinal pigment epithelium and photoreceptors.  This degenerative process can lead to symptoms that vary from no visual loss at all to profound visual loss.  Early symptoms of low vision from AMD may include shadowy areas in your central visual field or unusually blurry vision.   In developed countries such as the U.S., AMD is the leading cause of irreversible blindness.  Risk factors include age, smoking, and genetic predisposition.  To a lesser extent, hypertension, hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol and/or triglycerides) may also play a role in the disease.

There are also ethnic differences with AMD and more prevalent in Caucasians than in black and Hispanic populations.

The genetics of AMD is under intense scrutiny, with several genes implicated in many cases of AMD, especially in severe AMD.  At this time there is no treatment for any genetic abnormality found in patients with AMD.

AMD begins with changes in and under the retinal pigment epithelium (“dry AMD”) and can progress to new vessel formation under and in the retina itself (“wet AMD”) leading to loss of all central vision.

The symptoms of AMD depends on the stage; in early dry AMD, there are no symptoms at all.  As the disease progresses, there may be gradual blurring of central vision, and if wet AMD develops, there may be sudden marked loss of central vision.

The treatment for AMD depends on the stage.  In moderate to severe dry AMD, antioxidant vitamins plus zinc have been shown to reduce the progression of the disease.  For wet AMD, there are 3 medications available that can be injected into the eye to slow down the progression of the disease.

At the present time there is no cure for AMD.
With or without a family history of AMD, as we all age we should have regular eye exams to include a dilated exam of the retina to rule out AMD.  Your eye doctor can advise you as to whether or not you have AMD and what therapy, if any, is indicated.

At the Johnson City Eye Clinic we have extensive experience with both wet and dry AMD, and have the necessary diagnostic tools to diagnose, treat, and follow the disease.  All of our physicians can discuss this disease with you and your family.

The top five risk factors for AMD include being over the age of 60, having a family history of AMD, smoking, obesity and hypertension.  Patients with just two of these risk factors should see their eye care provider to determine preventive measures thereby reducing the risk of vision loss from AMD.  Earlier diagnosis gives a much better chance of successful treatment.

Johnson City Eye Center

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