One of the most important things we can do for ourselves as we age is to stay on top of the health issues that could arise. After all, “knowledge is power,” as Francis Bacon, the English philosopher, so wisely said.
February is AMD Awareness Month, and chances are, you know someone who has this common condition, but you probably don’t know much, if anything, about it. The fact is, with over 2 million Americans suffering from the disease and 7 million at risk, AMD is the leading cause of vision loss in people over 55 years old, and the number is expected to double in the next four years.
To help educate our community of exceptional women about AMD, FabOverFifty has joined the #AMDawareness campaign, sponsored by EyePromise.
WHAT IS AMD?
90% of people with AMD experience “dry” AMD, which is the thinning (or deterioration) of the retinal pigment epithelial (tissue) cells in the macula. These cells support the light sensitive photoreceptor cells that are so critical to vision. When we look at something, the photoreceptors (called rods and cones) gather the images and send them to the brain, where vision takes place.
The macula is an oval yellowish area surrounding the fovea (the center most part of the macula), near the center of the retina of the eye. This tiny area is responsible for our central, sharpest vision and controls our ability to read, drive a car, recognize faces or colors, and see objects in fine detail.
The macula is crucial for our central vision, and, as the disease progresses, our central vision begins to fail. The presence of lipid (a fatty protein) deposits, called drusen, has also been associated with the disease. While drusen likely do not cause age-related macular degeneration (AMD), their presence increases a person’s risk of developing AMD.
Drusen alone do not usually cause vision loss. In fact, scientists are unclear about the connection between drusen and AMD. They do know that an increase in the size or number of drusen raises a person’s risk of developing either advanced dry AMD or wet AMD (which can occur as the disease advances). These changes can cause dramatic vision loss. An ophthalmologist can detect drusen during a comprehensive dilated eye exam.
Dry AMD can progress, in about 10 percent of patients, to become wet AMD, where blood vessels form under the retina, and leak blood and fluid into the eye, according to AllAboutVision. Wet AMD further (and more quickly) distorts the central vision, and can ultimately lead to blindness.
Vision becomes distorted (i.e. a straight line looks wavy) and blurred, and we lose the ability to see clearly in dim lighting.