March is Age-Related Macular Degeneration Awareness Month

Age-Related Macular Degeneration is the nation’s leading cause of vision loss—more than cataracts or glaucoma combined! It’s estimated that nearly 10 million Americans suffer from Age-Related Macular Degeneration (or AMD) and seniors are in the highest risk population.

This debilitating disease progressively diminishes a victim’s central vision. Individuals slowly (or not-so-slowly) lose their ability to see fine details and may eventually end up partially blinded. Unfortunately, there is no known cause and no known treatment–which means prevention is absolutely essential!

What is Age-Related Macular Degeneration?

In a normal, healthy eye the lens captures light and focuses it on the retina at the back of the eye. The retina then translates that light into electrical signals that are passed along the optic nerve to the vision processing portion of the brain. The brain sorts out these electrical signals and we “see” what’s in front of us. However, Macular Degeneration irreparably destroys the central portion of the retina.

The symptoms of Age-Related Macular Degeneration may be difficult to spot because in the early stages of the disease victims don’t notice any changes at all. Eventually many experience wavy or blurred vision. In advanced cases the victims may see what appears to be a void right in the center of their field of vision.

Individuals suffering from Macular Degeneration will lose their ability to:

  1. Read

  2. Drive automobiles

  3. See colors

  4. Or recognize faces of loved ones

Risk Factors for Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Even as prevalent as this disease is scientists have been unable to pinpoint a direct cause (though it’s likely that both hereditary connections as well as environmental factors play a part). Doctors have been able to identify a handful of risk factors though which may help individual’s reduce their risk and help health care providers focus on patients likely to develop AMD.