Many people are not aware that age-related macular degeneration, often called ARMD, is the leading cause of blindness in the world. According to the eye-health organization Prevent Blindness America, some 13 million Americans have evidence of ARMD.
The disease breaks down the macula, the light-sensitive part of the retina responsible for the sharp, direct vision needed to read or drive.
Macular degeneration is more common in people over age 65, and whites and females tend to get the disease more than others. Most cases of macular degeneration are related to aging, but it also can occur as a side effect of some drugs, and it appears to run in families.
Macular degeneration can produce a slow or sudden painless loss of vision. If straight lines look wavy, vision begins to seem fuzzy, or there are shadowy areas in central vision, it may indicate early signs of age-related macular degeneration.
By Dr. Robert Epstein
Age related macular degeneration or AMD is a very common and increasingly important cause of legal blindness in the United States. It strikes most often after age 65; at a time when reading may be one of life’s few pleasures. The most elderly are more affected with 15% of people over 85 having AMD.
More likely to have the disease are causasians, women, and present or past smokers. Smoking is the most important, preventable cause of macular degeneration. A recent published medical study showed that smokers are three times more likely to get AMD than non smokers. Past smokers were found to be only 30% more likely than non smokers to get macular degeneration.
Multivitamin antioxidant supplementation with zinc and lutein may be helpful in preventing or slowing the progression of macular degeneration. A diet rich in green leafy vegetables is helpful as well An Amsler grid is a useful tool for monitoring your central visual field. It is an important way to detect and monitoring early and sometimes subtle visual changes in age-related macular degeneration. With the Amsler grid, each eye is tested separately by you. One kind of Amsler grid, called a Yannuzzi card, is shown here:
To test yourself with the Amsler grid, use adequate lighting and wear your reading glasses or look through the reading portion of your bifocals (if you normally read with spectacles). Hold the Amsler grid at normal reading distance (about 14 inches). Cover one eye at a time with the palm of your hand. Stare at the center of the chart at all times. Do not let your gaze drift from the center dot. Then as you check each eye separately, ask yourself (a) Are any of the lines crooked or bent? (b) Are any of the boxes different in size or shape from the others? (c) Are any of the lines wavy, missing, blurry, or discolored? You should check each eye with the card held both vertically and horizontally. If you think you or a friend or relative may have macular degeneration, you should seek an examination by an ophthalmologist or eye-MD. More information will appear in a future article.