Q&A: Age-related macular degeneration

Q: What is age-related macular degeneration?

A: Age-related macular degeneration, also known as AMD, is a common eye disease that is a leading cause of vision loss, especially if you are over 60. AMD damages the macula, which is in the center of the retina and provides sharp straight-ahead vision. Symptoms include blank or blurry spots in your central vision. AMD can make it difficult to see fine detail like reading, watching TV and recognizing faces.

Q: Are there different types of AMD?

A: Up to 90 percent of all cases are dry AMD, when light-sensitive cells in the macula break down, gradually blurring your central vision. In wet AMD, which affects around one in 10 people with AMD, abnormal blood vessels under the macula leak fluid and blood, damaging the macula. Wet AMD leads to rapid, more severe vision loss but rarely causes total blindness. Some people with the dry form develop wet AMD. Either form can appear first.

Q: Apart from age, what are major risk factors?

 A: You’re at greater risk if you smoke, are Caucasian or have a family history of AMD. As Americans live longer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts more than 5 million people will have AMD by 2050, doubling the current number.

Q: What can I do to reduce my risk of AMD?

 A: Serious eye conditions like AMD can be more easily and successfully treated if diagnosed and treated early. Routine, comprehensive dilated eye exams with an eye doctor at Lighthouse Guild can detect early signs of AMD. Find out how often you should get your eyes examined. Also, make healthy lifestyle choices. For instance, don’t smoke. Maintain normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Eat green, leafy vegetables and fish. Exercise regularly and watch your weight. Avoid excessive sun exposure.

Q: How is AMD treated?

 A: Some research shows that you can slow the progression of dry AMD by taking certain nutritional supplements. For wet AMD, eye injections are the most common treatment and can help to preserve remaining vision. Learn how AMD can be managed and treated. For dry or wet AMD, follow up regularly with your eye doctor. Ask questions, so you fully understand the nature of your disease and the best treatment options.

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Lighthouse Guild’s full service Optometric and Low Vision Clinic: 212-769-6313

ColumbiaDoctors Ophthalmology’s Robert Burch Family Eye Center: 212-305-9535

Both conveniently located at 15 West 65th Street, New York, NY 10023