February is Age-Related Macular Degeneration and Low Vision Awareness Month

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Age-Related Macular Degeneration / Low Vision Awareness Month is sponsored by Prevent Blindness America.

What is Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD)?

ARMD is a disorder of the macula. The macula is the part of your retina where your central and color vision comes from. ARMD is a complex disorder where degenerative protein/lipids (called “drusen”) deposit under the retina. These deposits are seen in early macular degeneration. As the disease progresses, the structural support system of the retina breaks down and can allow abnormal blood vessels to grow, or leak fluid and further disrupt the retinal cells. If these blood vessels grow in the macula then you will lose your central. (There are other types of macular degeneration and drusen deposits that are not related to ARMD so a complete eye exam by an eye doctor for diagnosis is recommended.)

ARMD is the leading cause of central vision loss in Americans over 50 years old.

There are three main types of age-related macular degeneration:

Dry or Nonexudative – drusen and pigment deposits only

Wet or Exudative – abnormal growth/leakage of blood vessels +/- drusen deposits

Geographic atrophy – retinal support system breaks down with loss of vision without blood vessels or drusen usually

What are the risk factors?

  1. Age: Affects more than 2 million Americans over 50 years old. Prevalence of ARMD in the USA is around 6% when 65 and almost 20% when 75 years old.
  2. Genetics: Family history (many genes being studied)
  3. Smoking: Increases your risk for progression
  4. Other eye conditions: hyperopia and light colored iris
  5. Systemic diseases associated: hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, cardiovascular disease
  6. Gender: women are more likely to be affected than men
  7. Race: Caucasian
  8. UV light – no significant proven risk but caution and sunglasses advised.

What is the treatment?

One of the mainstays of treatment is 1) quitting smoking and 2) AREDS vitamins. The Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) proved that certain vitamins can decrease your risk of progressing to advanced forms of macular degeneration if you have early to intermediate disease by 25% over 5-10 years.

Specifically these vitamins are Vitamin C 500 mg daily, Vitamin E 400 IU daily, Beta-carotene 15 mg (25,000 IU) daily, Zinc oxide 80 mg daily and Cupric oxide 2 mg daily.

The AREDS 2 study is underway looking at the effects of lutein and zeaxanthin and the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA (derived from fish oils). A healthy diet of green leafy vegetables is also recommended.

Smokers Caution: Prior studies by the National Cancer Institute showed that high amounts of beta carotene increased the risk of lung cancer in smokers and recent former smokers so the AREDS formulation without beta carotene and with lutein instead is recommended for those that are smokers or have smoked in the last 5-10 years.

Depending on your type and severity of macular degeneration, there are many new and exciting treatment options that can not only prevent further vision loss but they can help you regain vision, sometimes even back to 20/20. Discuss your options with your eye doctor.

What is Low Vision?

Low vision is defined as 20/60 or worse or a visual field less than 10?.

What is Legal Blindness?

Legal blindness is 20/200 or worse or a visual field less than 20?.

Why is Low Vision Awareness Important?

The most common causes of low vision in the USA are macular degeneration, followed by glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. Identifying patients with low vision enables physicians to prescribe visual aids such as single vision reading glasses, high power magnifiers, and closed circuit TV monitors to assist with activities of daily living.

Where can I get help if I have Low Vision?

Talk to your eye physician.

Vision Aware - National Braille Literacy Month is January

Virginia Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired 

Prevent Blindness America 

American Foundation for the Blind

Foundation Fighting Blindness

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Everhart Eye Associates
204 Virginia Street
Ashland, Virginia 23005
Ph. 804.752.7508 | Fx. 804.798.6876

Everhart Eye Associates welcomes new patients. We serve individuals from across Virginia. For an appointment, contact us at (804) 752-7508.

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