February is Age-related Macular Degeneration Awareness Month

What is age related macular degeneration (ARMD)? 

 Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) is an acquired degeneration of the retina.  The macula is the central area in the retina responsible for the vision that we use to read, drive and see the faces of those we love.  Early in the disease, it may not affect vision, but as it progresses, images become blurry or distorted.  In the later stages, central vision can be permanently lost, with only preservation of peripheral vision.  More than 10 million Americans suffer from ARMD and it is the leading cause of vision loss in patients 65 years and older—more than cataracts and glaucoma combined!  

Risk Factors:   There are many risk factors contributing to ARMD including age, smoking, heart disease, high blood pressure, female gender, white race, high cholesterol, obesity, family history, light colored eyes, and exposure to UV light over many years.

Diagnosis:   A special test, called an Amsler grid, is used to diagnose and monitor vision.  It is a square grid that is observed periodically, with each eye separately, to monitor for changes like blurry vision, distortion, wavy lines or missing areas in the visual field.  If these changes are found, an eye doctor will dilate both eyes and examine the retina with lenses, and other tests that can determine if there are changes from ARMD.  

Treatment:  There are 2 main types of ARMD, “dry” or “wet” and they are treated very differently.  Dry ARMD patients may be treated with special vitamins and observed.  Wet ARMD patients will need treatments inside the eye including laser and injections.  Unfortunately, these treatments try to prevent progression, but cannot reverse changes already present in the retina.

Prevention:  Since we can’t change our age, race, or family history, the factors we can modify include exercising, keeping our weight and cholesterol down, not smoking, eating foods high  in carotenoids like lutein and Zeaxanthin (colored fruits and vegetables), and wearing sunhats and sunglasses every day!  Prevention is the key!

Regular eye exams can reinforce good habits and find eye diseases at an early stage.  Please call our office at 650-259-0300 to schedule your eye exam with one of our excellent optometrists or ophthalmologists today.