What You Should Know About Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Megan Ray  |  February 18, 2016
Seniors should visit the eye doctor frequently.

February is National Age-Related Macular Degeneration and Low Vision Awareness Month. This month, take the time to understand AMD and take note if you or your loved one may be losing vision.

It's common not to know about the condition, but it's important to take the time to learn and understand how exactly your eyes work and what happens if you develop AMD.

What is Age-Related Macular Degeneration
According to the National Eye Institute, AMD is a common eye condition as well as the leading cause of lost vision in older adults aged 50 and over. AMD causes damage to the macula, which is needed for sharp vision that lets you see objects that are straight ahead of you. For some, this condition develops slowly over time, and for others, the disease can progress fast and cause vision loss in both eyes. Over time, vision will become blurry and objects will not appear as bright as they once did.

AMD does not cause complete blindness, however, the loss of central vision can make handling everyday tasks - such as reading, writing, driving and communicating face-to-face - more difficult.

Unfortunately, age is a major risk factor for AMD. The source said that the disease usually occurs in people after the age of 60, but it can occur sooner. Other risk factors include smoking, race, family history and genetics.

Common symptoms
According to the EyeHealth Northwest blog, the common symptoms of AMD include blind spots, blurred vision and wavy lines in vision. Other possible malformations in your eye sight may be objects appearing smaller and further away than they actually are or doorways seeming off-centered. If you or a loved one is experiencing any of those symptoms, consider scheduling an appointment with the eye doctor immediately. 

What can you do?
The exact cause of the condition is unknown, but there are a number of risk factors that you can control. According to the National Eye Institute, research has found links between lifestyle choices - such as smoking cigarettes - and AMD. If you want to lessen the chances of having the condition, stop smoking, maintain a normal blood pressure, exercise on a daily basis and eat a well-balanced diet full of green, leafy vegetables and fish.

If you have made positive changes to your lifestyle choices and you still seem to be losing sight, don't worry. According to The Discovery Eye Foundation, there are many simple things you can do on your own to help improve your vision. Consider the following:

Make improvements to the lighting in your home - Just because the lighting in your home doesn't seem too bright, doesn't mean it's not affecting your vision. Glare can often be a problem for people losing their eye sight. Consider making adjustments to the lighting in your home in the areas that make you uncomfortable.

Use high contrast - Whether you're typing on the computer or you're writing on a piece of paper, always use a large font in dark text. This will make reading much easier for you, putting less stress on your eyes.

Invest in a magnifying glass - If you often find yourself squinting while reading the newspaper or instructions on boxes, consider investing in a magnifying glass. It'll make the words larger so that the stress is taken off of your eyes.

Consider listening to books on tape - If reading is one of your favorite hobbies, but it has recently become a difficult task for you, consider listening to books on tape or CD. Most libraries have an entire section dedicated to audio books, so you won't have trouble finding your favorites.

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