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Macular degeneration can blind you

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A recent survey found that most Americans stated that losing the ability to see would have a greater effect on daily life than any other disability; they rated vision loss to be more severe than losing their hearing, memory, an arm, a leg, or the ability to talk. That fear is well-grounded—80% of the sensory information that the brain receives comes from the eyes. However, despite this fear, ophthalmologist Dr. John Kitchens notes that only 52% of US adult are aware of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is a leading cause of preventable vision loss in people over the age of 60.

I interviewed Dr. Kitchens who is a specialist in diseases of the retina and rated as “America’s Top Ophthalmologists.” He noted that February is AMD Awareness Month; thus, he and other healthcare professionals are focusing on informing the public about the condition and what can be done to halt or slow its progress. First, he supplied me with some facts about AMD:
Approximately 15 million people in the US have AMD, and more than 1.7 million Americans have the advanced form of the disease
About 200,000 new cases of wet AMD, an advanced form of the progressive disease, are diagnosed each year in North America
Estimates of the global cost of visual impairment due to AMD is $334 billion
Aging is not the only risk factor for developing AMD; women tend to be at greater risk than men, and Caucasians are more likely to lose vision from AMD than African-American and Asian populations

In regard to prevention, Dr. Kitchens recommends that anyone over 65 years of age—or anyone who develops vision problems—should have a dilated eye exam—an exam in which the eye is dilated to obtain a clearer view of the retina in the back of the eye. This exam can be done by either an optometrist or an ophthalmologist. If AMD is detected, an ophthalmologist should be consulted. This eye physician will perform a risk assessment regarding the progression of AMD. The condition is treatable. Vitamins known as AREDS are available that may halt the progression of AMD. In addition, injections into the eyeball can control AMD. These injections are expensive; however, since they are administered in a physician’s office, 80% of the cost is covered by Medicare. Medicare recipients with supplemental coverage often have most or all of the remaining cost covered. If untreated, AMD eventually will cause devastating central vision loss that cannot be corrected and/or reversed by eyeglasses, contact lenses and/or laser surgery.

Signs and Symptoms of AMD

  • You notice a blurred / blind spot in the center of your field of vision
  • You require more light when reading
  • You find it difficult to adapt to low lit areas
  • Printed words become slightly blurry
  • Colors do not seem as bright
  • Sometimes you have difficulty recognizing faces
  • Your overall vision is becoming hazy

Even though there is no known exact cause for AMD, its origins are considered multi-factorial. The following factors may place you at a higher risk:

  • Family history of Macular Degeneration
  • Low macular pigment density
  • Smoking
  • High cholesterol
  • Farsightedness
  • Poor Diet / Obesity
  • Sun exposure

Additional information can be found at this link.