Age-Related Macular Degeneration is a common – yet serious – eye disease that affects the macula (located centrally in the back of the eye) among people age 50 and older. The macula is the part of the eye that allows you to see fine details in your central vision for activities such as driving, reading, and sewing.

Unfortunately, AMD is a painless disease that affects people differently. Because there is no pain associated with this disease, you may not realize you have AMD until vision loss is already occurring. The best way to avoid vision loss is to schedule comprehensive eye evaluations annually after age 50.

For some, AMD can advance slowly and mildly. But in others, AMD spreads very quickly and could lead to vision loss in either one or both eyes. One of the most common symptoms of early AMD is blurred images near the center of your vision. Over time, this blurred area may grow larger causing blank spots in your central vision to develop.

Who is at risk?

There are a number of risk factors for AMD, but the biggest one simply ages. If you’re above age 50, then you are technically at risk for AMD. Other factors for AMD include:

• Smoking: Studies have shown that smoking increases the risk of AMD, dry eye syndrome, cataracts, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy. Smokers are three to four times more likely to develop AMD than nonsmokers. Also, non-smokers living in constant second-hand smoke almost double their risk of developing the disease.1

• Race: AMD is more common in Caucasians

• Family History and Genetics: People with a family history of AMD are at high risk for the disease.

How is AMD treated?

Unfortunately, there is no treatment for early AMD but it is recommended that you get a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year to help determine the progress of the disease.

While there is no treatment currently for early AMD, there are some precautionary strategies that you can implement in your daily life. Studies have shown that a combination of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, zinc, and copper can reduce the risk of late AMD by 25 percent.2

References:

1: “Department of Health.” Smoking Can Lead to Vision Loss or Blindness, New York State Department of Health, Dec. 2009, www.health.ny.gov/prevention/tobacco_control/smoking_can_lead_to_vision_loss_or_blindness.htm.

2: “Facts About Age-Related Macular Degeneration.” National Eye Institute, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1 Sept. 2015, nei.nih.gov/health/maculardegen/armd_facts.