February is age-related macular degeneration (AMD) month and the American Academy of Ophthalmology wants to remind you of the importance of screening, early detection and describe the most recent treatment options. Over 1.5 million Americans suffer from AMD, making it the leading cause of blindness in the country, and the new treatment possibilities are bringing hope to millions of people.
Saving Your Vision with Early Detection
AMD is broken down into two types: wet and dry. Wet is the least common form and involves the growth of abnormal blood vessels under the retina. Dry AMD is more common and is the deterioration of the macula, the light-sensitive tissue of the retina that provides central vision.
Symptoms: The common symptoms are dark patches, distortion, or blurriness in the central vision. If you have any of these, tell your eye care professional right away.
Testing: The earlier AMD is caught, the earlier you can start treatment, and the better your chances of retaining more of your vision. There are three ways you can test for AMD and they are:
- Dilated eye exams, which you should have done annually
- OCT macular exams, which use light waves to create pictures of your eyes
- Amsler grids, which you can use at home to self-test
Getting the Right Treatment
Back in 2011, a clinical trial called the Age-Related Eye Disease Study was completed, and it tested the effects of certain vitamins on AMD. The study found that high doses of vitamins C, E, zinc, and beta-carotene (and later lutein and zeaxanthin) were effective at slowing the progression of dry AMD. Similarly, drugs like Avastin, which block the formation of abnormal blood vessels, have been shown to work and treat wet AMD.
This February, celebrate age-related macular degeneration month by getting your eyes tested. And don’t forget to spread the word to friends and loved ones about the importance of early detection, and the treatment options that are available now for AMD.