The macula is one of the most important parts of the retina in the eye. This cell-dense organ helps you see clearly when looking at something directly in front of you. Unfortunately, certain eye diseases affect how the macula functions, especially as you age.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the most common eye diseases with over 20 million people diagnosed in the United States. Further, AMD is a leading cause of irreversible vision loss and impairment. Early diagnosis and monitoring are incredibly important with dry AMD. Take a closer look at dry AMD, why early disease monitoring is so important, and more.
What Is Dry AMD?
Dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a prevalent, progressive eye disease that is characterized by macula cell degeneration. Normally, cells that make up the retina naturally die and renew. However, with dry AMD, the retinal cells are not regenerated once old cells die.
While it is a common misconception that “dry” macular degeneration has something to do with dry eyes, this is not the case at all. “Dry” is only used as a reference for the type of AMD, as “wet” AMD is also possible. For reference, 90 percent of AMD cases are in dry form.
Individuals who have dry AMD can be asymptomatic for a while, which means symptoms may not be noticeable until the disease has progressed. However, dry AMD can cause a variety of symptoms, and experiences can vary from one person to the next. According to the Macular Disease Society, symptoms can include:
- Reduced ability to discern colours
- Sensitivity to changes in light brightness and bright lights in general
- Distorted vision, such as straight objects or lines looking bent or angled
- Dark gaps, spots, or smudges in your field of vision
- Increased difficulty reading words in print
- Changes in central vision, such as objects being blurred or distorted
The Importance of Early Diagnosis and Monitoring
The earlier dry AMD is diagnosed the better for several key reasons. Dry AMD is a progressive condition—it worsens as time goes by. There is currently no cure for dry AMD, even though there is promising exploratory research ongoing to find effective treatments. However, there are approved medications for dry AMD that may slow the progression of the condition.
Working with an eye doctor to get regular eye exams is one of the most effective strategies for catching signs of dry AMD as early as possible. Scheduling an appointment for a thorough ocular health exam annually is best, especially if you are over the age of 40 as AMD risks elevate with age. By targeting AMD with proven therapies and lifestyle changes, you may be able to slow the progression of the condition and negate the risks of vision loss in the long term.
Lifestyle Changes and Nutrition Tips for Dry AMD
Making healthy nutrition choices, getting ample exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight may help reduce the risks of AMD. Further, making healthy changes even after diagnosis may offer some benefits. Nutrient-dense foods like vegetables, fruits, and fish are thought to be beneficial for reducing dry AMD risks. Nutrients that are important to lower the risks of AMD include:
- Vitamins A, C, and E
- Carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin
Certain nutritional supplements may also be viable for slowing the progression of AMD. Over a five-year study, a formula containing lutein and zeaxanthin taken regularly reduced AMD progression risks by roughly 26 percent.
Talk to a Squamish Optometrist About Your Risks of Dry AMD
Common eye diseases like dry AMD can sound scary, but with early diagnosis and interventional treatment to slow the progression, you are taking steps to protect your vision. If you suspect you may be at risk of AMD or have not had an eye health exam in a while, be sure to schedule your annual visit. Reach out to Garibaldi Eye Care to schedule an appointment.