March is Age-related macular degeneration awareness month

in Contributors/Dr. Mark Siegel, MD FAAO by

By Dr. Mark Siegel, MD FAAO

 Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of severe vision loss among Americans ages 65 and over. Knowing your risk factors, being aware of your family history, and keeping regular appointments with your eye doctor can help reduce your risks for vision loss from macular degeneration. In its most severe form, known as wet AMD, the disease can lead to permanent loss of central vision, which is essential for driving, reading and recognizing faces.

March is AMD Awareness Month, and Sea Island Ophthalmology encourages everyone to know their risks for AMD.

The past few years have been marked by significant improvement in understanding the causes and the treatment of AMD. New research and clinical advances are helping us to better treat both the “dry” and “wet” forms of AMD. One strong risk factor that people may not be aware of is family history. It’s important to find out whether your relatives have had AMD and to tell your eye doctor if you have a history of AMD in your family. Knowing your risks can save your sight.

Here are the top 5 risk factors for AMD:

• Being over the age of 60

• Having a family history of Age-related Macular Degeneration

• Cigarette smoking

• Obesity

• Hypertension

If you have any two of these risk factors, you should schedule an appointment with your eye doctor for a complete dilated eye examination. Your eye doctor may recommend certain preventive measures that can reduce your risk of vision loss from this disorder.

People who are at risk should know the symptoms of wet AMD, the form most likely to cause rapid and serious vision loss. These include sudden, noticeable loss or distortion of vision, such as seeing “wavy” lines. See an eye doctor right away if these symptoms occur. Current treatments for wet AMD provide an excellent chance of stopping vision loss and may actually restore some vision when macular degeneration develops. Earlier diagnosis of wet AMD gives a better chance of successful treatment.