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

What is Age-Related Macular Degeneration?

Age-Related Macular Degeneration, or AMD, is one of the most common causes of vision loss in patients who are over the age of 50. AMD causes damage to a small spot near the retina’s center, called the macula. The macula is responsible for clear, sharp central vision and allows patients to see things that are straight in front of them clearly.

AMD can often advance slowly, and in other cases AMD can cause vision loss in one or even both eyes in a short period of time. AMD will eventually create an area of blurry central vision that will grow larger over time, or cause blank spots in the patient’s central vision.

AMD typically does not cause complete blindness. However, losing central vision can interfere with many everyday activities such as driving, reading, writing and doing any work where sharp, close vision is required.

Who is at Risk for AMD?

The biggest risk factor for AMD is age. AMD is most prevalent among patients who are over the age of 50.

Other risk factors include the following:

  1. Smoking – can double the risk of AMD
  2. Race – AMD is more common among Caucasians than other ethnicities
  3. Family history – if a patient has a family history of AMD, they are greater risk

How is AMD Diagnosed?

AMD typically presents little to no symptoms in the early and intermediate stages, so a complete dilated eye examination is very important for early detection.

Annual eye examinations with an ophthalmologist are important, particularly if patients are at risk for AMD because of age, family history, race or lifestyle choices such as smoking. Early detection of age-related macular degeneration is critical and improves the prognosis and success with possible treatments that can delay or reduce the severity of the disease.