Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a common eye condition and a leading cause of vision loss in adults aged 50 and over. The disease is characterized by damage to the macula, a small area near the center of the retina that is responsible for sharp, central vision.
Often, AMD progresses so gradually that there may be no perceived vision loss for a long time. In some cases, AMD advances much more quickly and can lead to vision loss in one or both eyes. AMD does not cause complete blindness, but the loss of central vision means that you cannot see the people, objects or movement that are directly in front of you. This means your vision is affected when doing activities such as reading, writing, driving, cooking, home repair, and yard work.
Symptoms of AMD
Although there may be no symptoms in the early stages, a damaged macula can cause objects and faces to appear dark, blurry or distorted. Dark, blurry areas or whited out areas also appear in the center of vision, and straight lines look bent and uneven.
Risk Factors for AMD
- Race. AMD does not affect all races equally. Caucasians are more likely to develop AMD than African Americans or Hispanics.
- Smoking. Studies show that smoking more than doubles your risk for developing AMD.
- Family history. Recent research has identified almost 20 genes that can affect the developing of AMD.
Lifestyle choices that help prevent AMD
There are some choices that you can make to safeguard your eyesight from AMD. Although you cannot always prevent the development of AMD, you can make some daily changes in your habits and choices.
- Exercise regularly.
- Eat a diet that is high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
- Maintain normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
- If you smoke, stop.
The most important decision to you can make is to visit your eye doctor regularly for comprehensive eye exams. An eye exam is an essential component of eye disease prevention and can be a helpful assessment tool for whole-body wellness (Source: NIH).