February is Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) Awareness month. AMD is the leading cause of blindness among older Americans, affecting more than 10 million people 50 years of age and older. Early detection is crucial. Over the last 10 years, new treatments have drastically changed the course of many AMD patients, making it more manageable, though a cure has yet to be found.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration is caused by the deterioration of the central portion of the retina. The retina is the inside back layer of the eye, and records what we see, and helps to send the information from the eye to the brain. The macula is responsible for focusing central vision and controls our ability to see objects in detail.

In some people, AMD advances so slowly that there are little to no symptoms, and vision loss doesn’t develop for a long time. In others, AMD advances faster and ultimately results in vision loss in one or both eyes.

Causes:
The specific causes of AMD are not 100% known, but we do know there are both genetic and environmental factors.

Risk Factors:
Smoking- Smoking doubles the risk of AMD. And plenty of other health issues… you know what we’re going to tell you: don’t smoke.
Race- Caucasians over the age of 50 are more like to develop AMD than African-Americans or Hispanics/Latinos.
Family History/Genetics- People with a family history of AMD are at higher risk than those who do not.

Stages of Age-Related Macular Degeneration:
Early AMD- Vision loss is rare and most people do not experience symptoms.
Intermediate AMD- There is some vision loss but most people retain very functional vision.
Late AMD- Vision loss is noticeable. People with fully developed AMD can be considered legally blind.

Treatment:
To this day, there is no cure for AMD, but there are things you can do to reduce your risk. Incorporating green and leafy vegetables into your diet, regular exercise, and not smoking are all things you can do to help prevent yourself from developing the disease.
Getting an annual eye exam will allow for your doctor to evaluate the macula, and and make more specific recommendations, if necessary.

For more on healthy aging and your vision, click here.

Source: https://nei.nih.gov/health/maculardegen/armd_facts