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Are you or your family member at risk for AMD or Age-Related Macular Degeneration? | Long Island Eye Doctor

Are you or your family member at risk for AMD or Age-Related Macular Degeneration?
Joel Kestenbaum, OD

AMD is a common condition of the eye among people aged 50 and older.  It is such a potentially vision devastating disease that I am compelled to repeat a prior blog post.  AMD is one of the leading causes of central vision loss in older adults.  This condition destroys the macula, the part of the eye which is needed to see clearly.

In some cases Age-Related Macular Degeneration moves so slowly that it takes a very long time for vision loss to occur. In some people it may advance rapidly and lead to vision loss in one or even in both eyes.  This type of vision loss makes it hard to see people’s faces, read, drive, or do work that’s close up such as sewing.  While clear central vision is lost, those who have AMD will retain their peripheral vision so they will bDrEyeExame able to see with their side vision.

Who is Most at Risk for AMD?

  • Those 50 and older
  • People with diseases that affect blood flow…… like diabetes.
  • Those who smoke (smoking doubles the risk)
  • Those of European descent are more likely to get AMD than those of African descent.
  • Those with a family history of AMD

What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk of AMD

  • Do not smoke
  • Eat lots of green leafy vegetables and fish and take the proper vitamin supplements as recommended by your eye doctor.
  • Exercise
  • Control your blood sugar levels and listen to your doctor

How Does Your Optometrist Made a Diagnosis of AMD?

For most people, AMD usually has no symptoms until it is fairly well advanced.  Your optometrist can make a diagnosis during your vision exam by looking at how well you do on your Visual Acuity Test (the eye chart test) as well as looking at the back of your eyes during your dilated eye exam, when you are given eye drops to dilate your pupils.  At our office, we have an instrument called an OCT which is used to screen for AMD during the iWellness exam.  This non-invasive test is one of the earliest ways to detect the structural signs of AMD.  The doctor may also have you look at an Amsler grid which contains a series of lines. If there are changes in your central vision some of the lines may look wavy or disappear.

If some or all of the tests above indicate that you may be showing signs of AMD, your optometrist may recommend a special diet, suggest proper vitamin supplements, or in more advanced cases refer you to a retina specialist for a “fluorescein angiogram.”  During this test, dye is injected into a patient’s arm and pictures are taken as the dye passes through blood vessels in the eyes. This allows the doctor to see if there are any leaky blood vessels in your eyes.

Treatments

AMD cannot be stopped, but its progression can be slowed.  One form of AMD, wet AMD, may be slowed by injections of anti-VEGF drugs into the eyes. Eyes normally contain VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor), but people with wet AMD have very high levels of VEGF.

In one of the older treatments, patients are given laser treatments called photodynamic therapy.  A drug is injected into a vein in a patient’s arm and the drug travels into blood vessels in the eyes.  A laser beam is then focused on the eye and the drug activates, causing any new and abnormal blood vessels to be destroyed.  This slows the rate of vision loss.

Some kinds of wet AMD are treated with laser surgery. This is another way to rid the eye of new blood vessels.  This treatment is used the least of all possible treatments as it can also harm healthy blood vessels in the eyes.

To find out more about Age-Related Macular Degeneration, speak with your Long Island Optometrist at Optix Family Eyecare Center during your vision exam. To make an appointment click here

 

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