Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of severe vision loss among Americans ages 65 and over.
"The past few years have been marked by significant improvement in understanding the causes and the treatment of AMD," says ophthalmologist and Academy spokesperson George Williams, MD, an expert in treating AMD.
Certain factors raise your risk of age-related macular degeneration
"Knowing your risk can save your sight," Dr. Williams says. "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 ophthalmologist if you have a history of AMD in your family."
Are you at risk of developing AMD? Schedule a comprehensive eye exam with an ophthalmologist if you:
Your ophthalmologist will recommend steps to reduce your risk of vision loss.
Lowering your risk of AMD
One way to reduce your risk of AMD is to quit smoking or never start. Following an eye-healthy diet can also work wonders for your vision.
You can't control all your risks, however. For example, you can't do anything about your genetics. Knowing family medical history and sharing it with your ophthalmologist is an important step to protect your vision.
For patients at high risk for developing late-stage wet AMD, taking a specific, AMD dietary supplement lowers that risk by 25%. Always check with your ophthalmologist before starting any dietary supplement.
How to recognize the first symptoms of AMD
There are two types of AMD: wet and dry. Dry AMD — called "dry" because it doesn't cause fluid to leak from blood vessels in the eye — is the most common type. But the wet form causes the most rapid, severe vision loss. Wet AMD can lead to permanent loss of central vision. Your central vision is essential for driving, reading, and recognizing faces.
Watch out for symptoms of wet AMD, such as:
- sudden, noticeable loss of vision, or
- sudden distortion of vision, such as seeing "wavy" lines.
See an ophthalmologist right away if these symptoms occur.
Early diagnosis of macular degeneration can help save your vision
"New research and clinical advances are helping us to better treat both the dry and wet forms of AMD," Dr. Williams notes.
The earlier you're diagnosed with AMD, the better your chances of successful treatment. Certain treatments can potentially stop vision loss. Injections of anti-VEGF drugs may actually restore some vision in people with wet AMD.
Reduce your chance for vision loss from macular degeneration by:
You may be eligible for a free eye exam
The American Academy of Ophthalmology and the Academy's EyeCare America public service program want people to know that a simple eye exam can help prevent unnecessary vision loss caused by diabetes. To that end, EyeCare America and thousands of volunteer ophthalmologists throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico are providing eye exams at no out-of-pocket cost to people age 65 and older. Find out if you are eligible for a no-cost eye exam.