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Home » What's New » AMD Awareness Could Save Your Vision

AMD Awareness Could Save Your Vision

It’s that time of the year again. Each February, the optometric community bands together to create awareness about age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD is a leading cause of vision loss for people 50 years and older; early detection plays a key role in the outcome of the disease. That’s why bringing awareness to the disease and its risk factors is so important. 

Macular degeneration is a disease that damages the macula, which is a small area in the center of the retina responsible for sharp, clear central vision. The disease comes in two forms, wet AMD and dry AMD. The most common form, dry AMD, which affects around 80% of AMD patients, is when the macula gradually thins, and small clusters of protein called drusen begin to grow. Drusen result from cells in the macula that cannot rid themselves of metabolic waste called lipofuscin. The lipofuscin accumulates as drusen which causes a gradual vision decline. 

Dry AMD can turn into wet AMD when abnormal new blood vessels grow through breaks in a membrane layer of the thinning macula. The fragile blood vessels leak fluid into the macula, causing rapid decrease in central vision.The wet form is less common, yet it can cause a faster and more drastic vision loss. If a person has dry AMD which turns into wet AMD, this should be treated as soon as possible, as within days this can cause permanent scarring. Fortunately, there is effective treatment for wet AMD if detected before scarring arises. 

Both forms of AMD result in a loss of central vision, while peripheral vision stays intact. Symptoms can present as difficulty focusing on objects in front of you, or a blurred or dulled area in the central visual field which leads to having trouble reading, doing close work, driving or even recognizing faces. With time, the size of the blurred area can grow and eventually develop into black spots in central vision. Oftentimes patients don’t even notice symptoms until a significant amount of damage has been done. This is why regular eye exams are critical, especially if you are at risk. 

While AMD alone won’t cause complete blindness, it can cause a permanent, total loss of central vision if not treated. Vision loss can lead to a condition called low vision which can have a very serious impact on daily living and require a lot of assistance both by vision devices and the help of others. 

Are You at Risk? 

As it is an age-related disease, age is a significant risk factor for AMD, specifically once you reach 60. However, age is not the only risk factor. While some risk factors for AMD cannot be controlled there are lifestyle factors that you can change to prevent AMD.

Other than age, risk factors include:

  • Family history: If you have a family history of AMD, you are more at risk. Research has identified at least 20 genes that are associated with AMD, showing there is a genetic factor.
  • Race: Caucasian descent is a higher risk factor for AMD, and in fact, Caucasians with light irises have an increased risk from age 50.
  • Smoking: Smoking doubles your risk of developing AMD. 
  • Overweight/Obesity: Research shows that being overweight is a risk factor for AMD.
  • Having heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol increase your risks.
  • Diet: An unhealthy diet rich in saturated fats is a significant risk factor.
  • Early exposure to UV light and blue hazard light (especially with the younger generation having increased exposure to digital devices) can cause early onset AMD. 

Here are some lifestyle steps you can take to reduce your risk of AMD:

  • Stop smoking
  • Eat a healthy diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids, (from fatty fish or flax seeds), leafy greens and colorful fruits and vegetables. 
  • Know your family history.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Protect your eyes using UV protection and blue blocker coatings on eyeglasses.
  • Get regular eye exams.

In addition to a comprehensive eye exam, your doctor may be able to test for certain risk factors. For example, there is now technology available that can test for lutein levels via technology such as QuantifEye and Macuscope, (low lutein can indicate increased risk). In addition, genetic testing is also now available through a simple cheek swab to determine an individual’s risk for developing AMD. 

Treatment

There is no known cure for AMD, however there are treatments available that may slow the progression of the disease. For dry AMD, studies (AREDS and AREDS2) have concluded that a particular high-dose combination of nutritional supplements taken daily can slow the disease. The combo includes vitamins C and E, Lutein, Zeaxanthin, Zinc and Copper. For wet AMD, the goal is to reduce the growth of abnormal blood vessels and the leakage that takes place and this is done through certain medications called anti-VEGFs which are injected into the eye or with laser surgery. 

Untreated macular degeneration can have devastating effects on your independence and quality of life. If you are 50 or over, speak to your eye doctor about your risk factors and what you can do to prevent AMD. 

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To our valued patients,

At The Eye Doctors, Inc. the health and well-being of our patients is at the core of everything that we do. In light of the rapidly changing situation and the spread of COVID-19 we made the difficult decision to close the clinic on Tuesday, March 17 th.

At this time, the Wal-Mart Vision Center remains open limited hours for urgent glasses repairs, pick-ups of existing orders and new contact lens orders. The vision center is open every day from 10 AM to 2 PM and on Tuesdays from 6 AM to 2 PM, with the hour of 6 AM to 7 AM reserved for senior citizens. New orders of contact lenses can be placed in-store or over the phone at 952-829-9024 and will be shipped directly to your home.  Additionally, you may order contact lenses at www.walmartcontacts.com

If you are experiencing an eye emergency, please call 952-955-4427 to leave a message for one of the doctors. Messages will be checked Monday through Saturday from 9 AM to 5 PM.

We are monitoring the situation closely and will re-open when it is safe to do so. We look forward to seeing you when things improve and thank you for your continued support of our practice. Please continue to our website for further information.

Dr. Melissa Viker & Dr. Britt Gustafson

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The Eye Doctors, Inc. COVID-19 Information:

Our clinic closed on March 17th and will remain closed until it is safe to re-open.  Please watch our website and Facebook page for updates.

Urgent or Emergent Eye Concerns

If you have an eye emergency, we are here to help.  Please call 952-955-4427 and one of the doctors will return your call.  The messages are monitored Monday through Saturday between 9 AM and 5 PM.  Eye emergencies include (but are not limited to): eye pain, a recent onset of redness in one or both eyes, flashes of light or sudden onset of new floaters, double vision, and sudden change/worsening of vision in one or both eyes.

Glasses and Contact Lens Orders:

The Wal-Mart Vision Center is open daily at this time from 10 AM to 2 PM and 6 AM to 2 PM on Tuesdays for limited services. The hour of 6 AM to 7 AM on Tuesdays is reserved for senior citizens.  One optician is on duty to provide urgent glasses repairs and adjustments; at this time no new orders for glasses are being accepted. Existing orders of contact lenses and glasses may be picked up from the vision center.  New orders of contact lenses can be placed in store and will be shipped to your home if we do not have the lenses in stock. Additionally, you may order contact lenses at www.walmartcontacts.com

Contact Lens Safety

There is no evidence that contact lens wearers are at greater risk for a Corona Virus infection, per the American Optometric Association Cornea and Contact Lens Section.  Please follow the below tips:

  • Wash and dry your hands thoroughly before handling contact lenses
  • Avoid using contact lenses if you are ill with any cold or flu-like symptoms
  • Reduce your risk for infection by avoiding sleeping, napping, swimming or showering in contact lenses
  • Replace your contact lens case every 2 months
  • Use fresh contact lens solution each time you store your lenses
  • Do not reuse single-use/daily disposable lenses