Did you know that age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) is a leading cause of vision loss in Americans over the age of 50? Over 9 million people have been diagnosed with ARMD and that number is expected to grow to almost 18 million people by 2050. But what, exactly, is macular degeneration? Macular degeneration can be classified as wet, dry or as Stargardt disease. Dry macular degeneration is more common than wet and Stargardt disease is hereditary. Dry macular degeneration occurs when the portion of the eye called the macula breaks down and leaves deposits of the tissue under the retina. Wet macular degeneration is caused when new blood vessels grow where they are not supposed to. The macula is responsible for allowing you to see crisp, clear images with fine details. Once this breaks down, so do your once detailed images. This can make things look progressively blurry or fuzzy until total vision is lost.
Because macular degeneration is such a widespread cause of vision loss, here are 7 things you should know about macular degeneration:
1. Macular degeneration is incurable
2. There are three different types: wet, dry, and Stargardt disease
3. Smoking doubles your risk
4. Most common in older Caucasians, especially women
5. Exercise can help to reduce your risk
6. Some types are hereditary
7. Only an Optometrist or Ophthalmologist can diagnose and treat ARMD
Even though macular degeneration is incurable, it is preventable. Your family genes and your environment both affect the likelihood of developing macular degeneration. The biggest risk factor is your age, as well as race, both of which cannot be changed. However, there are a few ways you can try to prevent macular degeneration. By not smoking, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy diet and wearing protective sunglasses, you can reduce your risk of developing macular degeneration. Following these tips can help to prevent or slow progression of the disease. As always, you should also have routine dilated eye exams. The earlier ARMD is discovered, the better your chances are for saving your vision.
Here is a tool from All About Vision that can help you test your eyes.