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Posted on 05-03-2016

As you age, you may notice that your vision in one or both eyes worsens, which makes it difficult to perform many activities, including driving, reading, or recognizing faces. You may even experience visual hallucinations, a scary occurrence that is not related to your mental state. The problem is that the macula of the retina becomes damaged, which affects the functioning of your eye. While you may still have peripheral vision, macular degeneration affects central vision.

How Prevalent Is Macular Degeneration?

This disease is so common in people over 50 that it is known as age-related macular degeneration (AMD or ARMD). In the United States, it affects .4% of those between 50 and 60, .7% of those 60 to 70, 2.3% of those 70, 80, and 12% of those over 80 years old. Worldwide, it is the most common cause of blindness after cataracts, preterm birth, and glaucoma. While in the United States, it is the most common cause of vision loss for those over 50. The condition becomes more severe with age and eventually may take a “wet” or “dry” form. About 80 to 90% of AMD patients have the dry form, an early stage of the disease that results as macular tissues become thinner with age. An eye exam will reveal that there are yellow spots (drusen) that accumulate around the macula as deteriorating tissue deposits. This dry AMD may eventually become the wet type, which is associated with severe vision loss as abnormal growth of fragile blood vessels occurs.

Is AMD Inevitable?

As you age, will you suffer from AMD? Although it is not a given, there are certain risk factors that are now associated with the disease that you have no control over. Race and sex. White females are at higher risk. Heredity. AMD runs in families, as substantiated by studies of fraternal and identical twin. Lighter eye color. Research indicates that those with dark irises have more protection against AMD, although results on this are inconclusive. For those who develop AMD, severe vision loss is more likely the older you get. Side effects from drugs. Some drugs offered for treatment of diseases like malaria or certain types of mental illness can increase the chances of macular degeneration. Lifestyle can increase the chances that you will get AMD as well. Obesity and inactivity. Overweight patients have twice the risk of developing advanced AMD than thinner patients and those who engage in vigorous exercise at least three times a week. High blood pressure. European studies show a correlation here. Poor diet. High cholesterol, fatty diets have been shown to increase the risk. British studies show that 25% of AMD sufferers are smokers; even secondhand smoke from living with a smoker doubles the risk of developing AMD. When you can’t change your age, sex, family history, or eye color, you can adopt a healthier lifestyle that will keep your blood pressure and weight in check.

Testing For Age Related Macular Degeneration

While the course of AMD may not be reversible, it is important to have your eye doctor test for it and monitor its progress. He or she will typically use the Amsler grid, which looks like a piece of screening with a reference spot in the middle. In addition, he may perform or suggest digital retinal imaging, optical coherence tomography that uses ultrasound, or genetic testing to monitor the progress.

Whether you are experiencing vision loss or just need a yearly exam, schedule an eye exam at Eye Site Texas by calling our Memorial or Katy locations for an appointment.

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