Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss in Americans 60 and older, according to the National Institutes of Health. AMD occurs when the macula—the part of your retina that gives you sharp, clear eyesight—deteriorates, causing blurring or a blind spot in your central vision.
The older you get, the more at risk you are for contracting AMD. While experts are not 100 percent sure about what causes AMD, they suspect aging and these risk factors:
- Smoking. Another reason to quit.
- Obesity. If you’re overweight and already have AMD, you’re more at risk for the disease to progress faster.
- Race. Caucasians are most at risk.
- Family history. If a close family member has AMD, your risk increases.
- Gender. AMD is more common in women.
- Overexposure to ultraviolet light. Wearing sunglasses when outdoors may help protect your sight.
Your treatment options vary depending on which form of the disease you have, dry AMD or wet AMD.
Dry AMD is the most common form of the disease. It’s important to get regular eye exams because very little can be done once dry AMD reaches an advanced stage. No FDA-approved treatments are available at this time, but a study by the National Eye Institute found that certain nutrients, such as beta-carotene, zinc, copper and vitamins C and E, may slow or prevent AMD’s progression.
Wet AMD is caused when newly formed blood vessels under the retina break, leaking fluid and damaging nearby tissue. Wet AMD can result in severe vision loss. Drugs injected in the eye, such as Lucentis, Macugen and Avastin, are some options that have been found to stabilize or improve vision. Laser therapy to destroy leaky blood vessels has also been effective in slowing vision loss.