1.65 million Americans have Macular Degeneration. Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is characterized by the loss of central vision, usually in both eyes, and is the leading cause of vision loss in people ages 65 and older. This month, Friends for Sight urges you to be aware of the risk factors associated with AMD, and get your eyes checked regularly.
There are two forms of this eye disease: wet and dry. Both forms deal with the macula (this small oval area is equipped with cells specialized for visual acuity) which is in the center of the retina and is only the size of a pencil eraser. AMD signs and symptoms for each type include the following.
- Most common form of the disease
- Macula Deteriorates
- Causes a blurred central vision or blind spots
- Can progress to web AMD at any time
- Abnormal blood vessels grow under the retina and lead fluid and bood into the macula
- Visual distortions occur (straight lines appear wavy, street signs look lopsided)
- Symptoms usually appear and progress rapidly
Risk factors are similar for both dry and wet AMD. They include:
- Older than 50
- Family history of AMD
- History of smoking
- High blood pressure/cholesterol
- Lack of vitamins prevalent in fruits and vegetables
Understand that you are dealing with two issues: the medical condition causing vision-loss and the vision-loss itself. With macular degeneration, you need a medical specialist called a retinologist because the macula is part of the retina. The retina specialist will have the most extensive experience in monitoring and treating the medical condition.
HOWEVER, regarding vision options, it is VERY important to know that the doctors who are treating your medical condition are usually not your best source of information regarding your vision. You must also investigate options.
Members of The International Academy of Low Vision Specialists are Low Vision Optometrists with extensive training and experience in dealing with the visual issues of macular degeneration. Members of IALVS use prescription low vision glasses to help you keep your independence. We believe in life after vision loss.
A retina specialist is a medical doctor – an ophthalmologist who has done an extra fellowship training in retinal diseases for one or two years after completing his residency in ophthalmology.
The Retina Fellowship includes an intensive one or two year full time program treating patients with retina problems and learning how to perform office based surgeries like laser and intraocular injections as well as hospital based surgery like vitrectomy.
Another macular degeneration specialist to have on your team is a low vision doctor. They are licensed Doctors of Optometry or Ophthalmology, who are skilled in the examination, treatment and management of patients with eye conditions that are not treatable or correctable by medicine, surgery or with glasses.
This health professional will assist the patient in:
- Determining what low vision optical devices are best for them
- How better lighting can help them see better
- Finding eye specialists with the right credentials is just one aspect of finding the right doctor for you. You may need to get a second or third opinion, before you find a doctor that meets your needs.