Elk Valley Times

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Age-related macular degeneration

It’s the leading cause of vision loss in people over the age of 50. While it’s exact causes are unknown, risk factors can include genetics, nutrition, smoking, high blood pressure, exposure to direct sunlight over a period of years, and certain medical conditions.

The macula is a part of the retina where nerve cells come together, allowing the eye to focus on the images that we see and providing the sharp, straight-ahead vision that allows us to see small detail, read fine print, recognize faces, and see street signs.

Most often, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) goes undetected until it affects visual acuity (sharpness). The first symptom is usually noticed when straight lines appear wavy, which can lead to a gradual loss of central vision. Other symptoms include blurriness and dimming of vision, a dark or blank spot in the center of your field of vision, or a difference in the size or color of how something appears. If you have any of these symptoms, see your eye doctor as soon as possible.

There are two types of AMD – the dry or atrophic form and the wet or exudative or neovascular form. The dry form is much more common, and while it usually won’t cause serious loss of vision, it can distort your sight. The wet form, however, usually causes major vision problems, including blind spots and loss of central vision in the affected eye – it can also advance rapidly. For these patients, early diagnosis and treatment are important to save as much vision as possible.

It’s important to note that because the dry form can change into the wet form, people with AMD should monitor their eyesight carefully and see their eye doctor on a regular basis.

AMD can be hereditary, passed on from parents to children, so if someone in your family has or had the condition, you may be at a higher risk of developing the disease. Talk to your eye doctor about your individual risk.

William C. Womble, OD
1822 Huntsville Hwy., Suite D
Fayetteville, Tenn.