Dr. Dallas Wilkinson, our doctor in Hot Springs, guest wrote this month’s blog on Age-Related Macular Degeneration:
Feburary is Age-Related Macular Degeneration Awareness (AMD) month. But for many, what does this mean? According to the National Eye Institute, “Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a disease that blurs the sharp, central vision you need for “straight-ahead” activities such as reading, sewing, and driving. AMD affects the macula, the part of the eye that allows you to see fine detail. AMD causes no pain.”
The earliest symptom of AMD (Age-Related Macular Degeneration) is consistent blurred vision. This blurring of vision comes from loss of macular cells that form the center of your vision. It would be similar to losing the photocells in a digital camera. The more you lose the worse the image becomes. The loss of these cells is not reversible, so don’t wait for the symptoms to tell you it’s time for an exam.
We can detect the earliest signs of the disease before they have any effect on your vision. Through technologies we have such as OCT we get a MRI-like view of your macula down to one one-thousandth of a millimeter of detail. This allows us to see the early changes in the macula and initiate treatment right away. Treatment typically is with a special formulation of vitamin based on the AREDS 2 Study. However, it is not recommended to take these vitamins without the diagnosis of AMD. In the earliest stages a vitamin called MacuHealth may be more effective. And, if you have no sign of AMD these vitamins truly are waste of money as they will not change if, or when, you get the disease.
Your greatest ways of avoiding this disease is to get an exam right away if you have not had one in the last year. The biggest enemies of a healthy macula are: 1) Smoking. This alone increases your risk by 8 times. 2) Having low pigment levels in the hair, skin and eyes. In other words, if you’re blond haired, blue eyed and pale, you have a much higher risk. 3) Diet. Those with poor diets also have increased risk. If you eat less than 3-5 servings of fresh fruits and/or vegetables per day, it may not be enough to sustain the macula. 4) Genetics. If you have a family history of AMD you have a higher risk of also developing it. 5) Being overweight and out of shape. Just like diabetes and heart disease, how you care for your body is a direct result of how you body is able to fight disease. 5) Age. It is an age related disease so every year of age increases risk.
If we find signs of AMD in our eye exam we may perform a SightRisk analysis to see what some of your risks are and what can be changed to lower your risk. We may also perform a MaculaRisk PGx to determine your genetic risk. This is a simple genetic test with just a swab of the inner cheek.
Things to Keep in Mind
The most important thing to remember is whether you wear glasses or not your risk of developing AMD is unchanged. Glasses don’t cause or cure this disease. Just because you see well doesn’t mean you can’t develop diseases like AMD, glaucoma, cataracts, retinal detachments or retinal cancer.
For more information on AMD or to schedule your eye exam, contact us today.