Macular Degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the most prevalent causes of vision impairment in individuals aged 55 and older. According to a study published in the journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, approximately 2.5 million people in Canada are affected by AMD. Of that number, nearly 180,000 have experienced vision loss as a result. As we will discuss below, the impact of AMD goes beyond vision loss, often affecting the overall quality of life of those diagnosed. This underscores the need for increased awareness of AMD to facilitate early diagnosis and intervention, thereby mitigating its progression and preserving visual function. 

An Overview of AMD

AMD is a chronic eye disease affecting the macula, the central portion of the retina responsible for sharp, central vision. There are two main types of AMD: dry AMD, characterized by the gradual breakdown of light-sensitive cells in the macula, and wet AMD, marked by the growth of abnormal blood vessels beneath the macula. The exact cause of AMD remains unclear, but factors such as aging, genetics, smoking, and prolonged exposure to UV light are believed to contribute to its development. 

Symptoms of AMD may include blurry vision, difficulty recognizing faces, straight lines appearing wavy or distorted, and dark or empty areas in the center of vision. While AMD primarily affects vision, it can also impact mental health and overall well-being. Medscape Medical News reports that as many as 42% of patients with AMD struggle with depression. This is in addition to other studies stating that AMD patients can experience feelings of frustration and anxiety over the disease’s progression. 

How to Prevent and Manage AMD

Managing and protecting your eyes from AMD involves adopting practical measures that promote eye health and reduce the risk of vision loss. One of the most crucial steps you can take to prevent this disease is to shield your eyes from the sun’s UV rays. Extended exposure to UV light can also accelerate the progression of AMD. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends wearing sunglasses that block out both UVA and UVB rays, which should be indicated by a label on the sunglasses.

If you have already been diagnosed with AMD, prescription sunglasses are ideal for correcting vision and providing sun protection. Fortunately, reputable eyewear brands, including Ray-Ban, now give you the option of customizing sunglasses to fit your prescription. This includes both single-vision and multi-focal lenses, allowing you to make the most of the vision you still have. On the other hand, those with AMD in its early or intermediate stages may benefit from yellow-tinted glasses. During this stage, AMD can cause individuals to struggle to differentiate between similar colors. However, one study found that this type of glasses can address decreased contrast sensitivity and improve vision.

Finally, regular eye exams are fundamental in the early detection and management of AMD. Schedule comprehensive eye exams with an optometrist or ophthalmologist at least once a year, particularly if you are over the age of 50 or have a family history of AMD. Take advantage of these eye exams by asking your ophthalmologist questions that can give you a better understanding of your eye health status. For instance, you can have them clarify the results of your eye exam or get information on whether your eyes will worsen over time. This way, you can take early action to maintain your vision.

While AMD poses significant challenges to those affected, adopting proactive measures can help prevent and manage the progression of this condition. Additionally, staying informed about available treatment options can empower individuals to make informed decisions regarding their eye health and preserve their vision for the long term.