Are you worried about losing your eyesight as you get older? Here’s everything you need to know about age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and how you can lessen your chances of getting it.
What are the symptoms?
Sufferers of AMD find that their vision when they look straight ahead, has become increasingly blurred. It affects the centre of your vision, and you can get it in one or both eyes. The NHS explains how this means reading becomes more difficult, colours appear less vibrant and faces are increasingly difficult to recognise.
The NHS adds that AMD doesn’t affect your peripheral vision, so you will not become completely blind. However, sight loss worsens over time. They list the other symptoms as: seeing straight lines as wavy or crooked; objects looking smaller than normal; colours seeming less bright than they used to; and seeing things that aren’t there (hallucinations).
What causes AMD?
The middle part of your retina is called the macula, which is the part affected by AMD. It is important to help you see detail, colour and things in front of you.
When someone suffers from AMD, the photoreceptor cells in the macular area have become damaged. There are two types of AMD – known as “wet” and “dry.” Dry AMD is most common and is when deposits build up on the macula, while wet AMD – when macula cells are damaged by abnormal blood vessels – is most serious, and can occasionally develop from dry AMD.
What will increase your risk of getting AMD?
The Bright Focus Foundation says that the main cause of AMD is age, with a reported third of adults over 75 suffering from the condition. However, there are also other risk factors including smoking, being female, obesity, having a lighter eye colour and a family history of AMD.
How to prevent AMD
Unfortunately, if your AMD is hereditary there may be no way of preventing it entirely. However, maintaining better eye health can lower your risk of developing macular degeneration.
Bright Focus suggest maintaining a healthy weight and eating a nutritious diet that includes green leafy vegetables, yellow and orange fruit, fish and whole grains. Exercising, maintaining normal blood pressure and controlling other medical conditions will also help reduce your risk. Finally, wearing sunglasses and hats when you are outdoors will help protect your eyes. It’s also very important to have regular eye exams, and consult your doctor if you notice vision changes.
What should you do if you’re worried about your eyesight?
If your vision has become dodgy and you’re concerned you might be suffering from AMD, you need to get your eyes checked out by an optometrist.
If they think you’re in the early stages of AMD, you will then be examined by an ophthalmologist at hospital. There you are likely to undergo various tests to find out if you do indeed have AMD.
How is it treated?
The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) says that unfortunately there is not yet a way to treat dry AMD, although there are various vitamins and minerals you can take to help slow down the progression of the condition.
If you suffer from wet AMD, medications can be prescribed to help alleviate symptoms. It’s important to note that the condition is not a painful one.
How you can get support
If you suffer from macular degeneration, it’s understandably difficult to cope with. Luckily, there are many places you can go for support and further resources, such as the Macular Society or the RNIB.
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