More than 2 million Americans are living with the most advanced forms of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a number that is expected to reach 4.4 million by 2050. It is the leading cause of blindness among white Americans over 40, and it’s a leading cause of irreversible vision loss throughout the world.
What is age-related macular degeneration?
Age-related macular degeneration happens when part of the retina, called the macula, is damaged. It’s the part of the eye that delivers sharp, central vision needed to see objects straight ahead. Over time, the loss of central vision can interfere with everyday activities, such as the ability to drive, read, and see faces clearly. Because AMD often has no early warning signs, getting regular comprehensive eye exams from an ophthalmologist is critical. There are two types of AMD.
What are the two types of age-related macular degeneration?
Dry age-related macular degeneration is the more common form of AMD. Close to 80 percent (eight out of ten) of people who have AMD develop the dry type. Dry AMD is when parts of the macula get thinner with age and tiny clumps of protein called drusen grow, causing people to slowly lose their central vision. There is no treatment for dry AMD; however, there are some vitamins and minerals that can slow dry AMD if taken on. daily basis (see below).
Wet age-related macular degeneration is the least common type of AMD, but is the far more serious type. Wet AMD develops when new, abnormal blood vessels grow under the retina, sometimes leaking blood or other fluids, which can cause scarring of the macula. Vision loss is quicker with wet AMD than it is with dry AMD.
Who is at risk for age-related macular degeneration?
You are more likely to develop AMD if you:
- Are 60 years old or older, but AMD can occur earlier
- Eat a diet high in saturated fat, such as meat, butter, and cheese
- Smoke, smokers have double the risk of developing AMD
- Are overweight
- Have hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Have heart disease
- Have high cholesterol
- Are Caucasian, AMD is more common in Caucasians
- Have AMD in the family, because there are more than 20 genes linked to AMD
What are age-related macular degeneration symptoms?
Age-related macular degeneration symptoms can include:
- Blurred or “fuzzy” vision
- Straight lines, such as sentences on a page, appearing wavy or distorted
- Blurry areas on a printed page
- Difficulty reading or seeing details in low light levels
- Extra sensitivity to glare
Should I get an age-related macular degeneration screening?
The American Academy of Ophthalmology guidelines state that adults with no signs or risk factors for eye disease get a baseline eye disease screening at age 40 — the time when early signs of disease and changes in vision may start to occur. From age 40 to 54, get your eyes examined every 2 to 4 years; from 55 to 64, every 1 to 3 years. By age 65, get an exam every one to two years, even in the absence of symptoms or eye problems. If you have risk factors for eye disease, you will need to be examined more frequently.
Ophthalmologists are physicians who specialize in medical and surgical eye care. These eye doctors have more tools than ever before to diagnose AMD earlier, and to treat it better. But these advances cannot help patients whose disease is undiagnosed, or patients who are unaware of the seriousness of their disease.
“People’s lack of understanding about AMD is a real danger to public health,” said Rahul N. Khurana, MD, clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “As the number of people with AMD is expected to explode in the coming years, it’s more important than ever that we prioritize eye health and have our eyes examined regularly.”
Can vitamins and minerals help with age-related macular degeneration?
Vitamins and minerals can help some people with dry AMD keep their vision longer. While their is no treatment for dry AMD, these vitamins and supplements can help slow dry AMD, if taken on a daily basis:
- Vitamin C (500 mg)
- Vitamin E (400 IU)
- Lutein (10 mg)
- Zeaxanthin (2 mg)
- Zinc (80 mg)
- Copper (2 mg)
If you have questions about dry AMD or about taking these vitamins and minerals to help with dry AMD, please contact our ophthalmologist. They will be able to tell you if vitamins and minerals are recommended for your dry AMD. Not all forms will benefit from supplements. Beta carotene should not be used by smokers as it raised the risk of lung cancer.
How you can reduce your risk of AMD
There are several things people can do to reduce their risk of AMD, including:
- Eating eye-healthy foods such as dark leafy greens, yellow fruits and vegetables, fish, and a balanced, nutrient-rich diet (these have also been shown beneficial for people with AMD)
- Avoid smoking
- Exercise regularly
- Get regular eye exams
If you believe you have AMD or have questions about this eye disease, schedule an appointment with one of our eye care specialists today. It is never too early or too late to prioritize healthy vision. Start today and let Eyepic Eyecare help with your vision journey.
To see an age-related macular degeneration example through a simulator, visit American Academy of Ophthalmology. This reliable resource has several videos, including an explainer video that tells you more about what AMD can look like for you.