So just what is age-related macular degeneration (AMD)? The simple answer is it is one of several retinal diseases that, if not diagnosed or treated early, can impair your central vision or even block it out altogether. That’s because the light-sensitive macula, while only a small part of the retina, has big responsibilities.
The macula is responsible for:
- Communicating with the brain
- The vividness you see of colors
- Accentuating finer details
- Recognition and familiarity of people and objects
- Everyday tasks like reading
And while the symptoms of macular degeneration are difficult to clearly identify because they tend to be gradual and subtle at first – if they even are noticeable at all – the causes of macular degeneration can be even more complicated.
Diagnosing macular degeneration
There are basically two different types of AMD: dry or wet. Dry age-related macular degeneration progresses slower and is the more common form of the two, and thus can usually be diagnosed and treated earlier. Wet AMD happens more rapidly and is essentially the growth of abnormal blood vessels that leak fluid or blood, often distorting your central vision. The easiest way to detect both of them, however, is to keep your regularly scheduled checkups with Nevada Eye Physicians. Your doctor will first administer some standard tests to assess your visual sharpness and clarity. But should you show any of the major signs of macular degeneration like blurry central vision or a constant need for increased light, Nevada Eye Physicians will then conduct further tests for certain potential contributors like the existence of any enlarged drusen deposits or fluid leakage behind the retina.
With seven locations across Nevada, your eye doctor at Nevada Eye Physicians knows the signs of AMD, and only with regular visits can its progression be caught. But as research has shown, there are other contributors to macular degeneration other than just how old you are. Much like dry or wet AMD, they can be divided into two categories: what you can control and the uncontrollable.
Controllable risk factors of macular degeneration
- Your health: Weight can be a huge factor in the development of macular degeneration. Maintaining a healthy diet can help prevent it or slow it from forming.
- Your blood pressure: Whether your high blood pressure is due to your day-to-day behaviors or merely hereditary, it can be controlled. Consult with your primary care physician to see if there is medication that can help you maintain a desirable one.
- Your habits: While it may seem obvious, there really isn’t a health condition that smoking benefits. Studies show that quitting smoking can greatly reduce your chances of developing macular degeneration.
- Your exposure: Always protect your vision! Whenever possible, wear sunglasses or hats with visors to shield your eyes from any harmful sunlight.
Uncontrollable risk factors of macular degeneration
- Your age: They don’t refer to as “age-related” macular degeneration for nothing. In fact, due to increased population and life expectancy, the National Eye Institute predicts the retinal disease to more than double in cases of those affected by 2050.
- Your genetics: Just because a family member has or had macular degeneration doesn’t mean you will, too. However, you should be aware if you have a family history of the disease so that your eye doctor can look for any signs of development.
- Your ethnicity: Macular degeneration is not discriminatory, but it is known to affect those of Caucasian descent more than African-Americans or Latinos.
- Your drusen: Drusen are any fatty deposits underneath the retina. And while they do not directly cause AMD, if they enlarge due to excessive buildup, they can contribute to its development.
Remember, the best and only way to catch macular degeneration before it becomes unmanageable is to keep your regularly scheduled eye doctor visits. If it’s been a while or you’re just concerned about the above risk factors of macular degeneration, contact Nevada Eye Physicians to make your Las Vegas area eye appointment today.