Age-related Macular Degeneration

Imagine looking into the face of your spouse, friend or grandchild and seeing only a blurry center. This is the plight of people suffering from Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). Macular degeneration is an eye disease associated with aging and is the leading cause of severe vision loss in adults over the age of 50. It is estimated that 1.8 million people have AMD and another 7.3 million are at substantial risk for vision loss from AMD.

The macula is located in the retina of the eye and is responsible for crisp, straight-ahead vision and is needed for everyday tasks such as reading, driving, and recognizing faces. When damage occurs to this area, it causes gradual loss of the ability to see objects clearly. Symptoms include blurriness, wavy lines or distortion, and/or a blind or dark spot in the vision. AMD can affect one or both eyes and can progress either very slowly or rapidly.

Risk factors for developing AMD include family history, age, smoking, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and gender (females). As a result of our aging population, we are seeing this disease more frequently.

Southport optometrist Dr. Tara Parnell of Perceptions Eye Health and Wellness  states,  “Our goal is aimed toward prevention and controlling risk factors.  We are able to better predict those at risk for severe vision loss with genetic testing.”

If a parent has AMD, you are at a 50 percent risk of developing advanced AMD. “With genetic testing, we are able to develop a specific, individualized protocol for managing and modifying risk factors. This is done very easily with a simple cheek swab. If AMD is diagnosed, we have incredible new technology that can help us better manage each stage of this disease,” Dr. Parnell explains.

It is most important to maintain an overall healthy lifestyle, including exercise, healthy weight, maintenance of normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and a diet high in green, leafy vegetables like spinach and kale, colorful fruits and vegetables like blueberries and sweet potatoes, and oily fish like tuna and salmon.

Research has also shown that exposure to harmful high-energy blue light from the sun and electronic devices is also a significant risk factor. Fortunately, taking precautions when outdoors by wearing polarized sunglasses that filter out the harmful light can help reduce the risk of damage and help to preserve vision.

“We also have indoor lenses available now to filter the blue light from computer screens, harsh fluorescent lighting and personal electronic devices,” Dr. Parnell shares. “In addition, supplementing with specific antioxidants, carotenoids, and omega fatty acids also help to repair damage and protect the macula.”

Detection is accomplished early via a comprehensive dilated eye health exam. Since early stages of AMD often have no symptoms, it is important to schedule regular eye exams with an eye doctor.

If you are over 50, please make an eye appointment today. Although you cannot restore vision loss from AMD, you may be able to delay the onset or slow the progression!

Perceptions Eye Health and Wellness is located at 1456 N. Howe St in Southport. The telephone number is (910) 454-9226.

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