AGE RELATED MACULAR DEGENERATION

Over one million Canadians have some form of Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of vision loss in North Americans over the age of 55. The Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) states that more Canadians have AMD than breast cancer, prostate cancer, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s dis- ease combined. However, not many of us know much about the disease itself or the ways in which we can help to prevent it.

Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is a progressive condition that painlessly and silently dismantles the central vision for both far and near while leaving peripheral vision intact. Because it leaves the peripheral vision intact, someone with AMD can see whatever lies at the edges of their vision but cannot clearly see something they may look at directly. For example, someone with AMD might be able to see the numbers at the edge of a clock but not the clock’s hands.

There are two types of AMD, commonly called dry and wet. Dry AMD accounts for 85- 90% of AMD. As you age, the macula (the area responsible for central vision) can develop an accumulation of deposits which can lead to decreased vision. Wet AMD accounts for 10-15% of all AMD. Wet AMD however, develops quickly and can be more damaging than the dry form. Wet AMD is called ‘wet’ because it is characterized by new abnormal blood vessel growth under the macula. These abnormal blood vessels are weak and can leak fluid and bleed.

Currently there is no cure for AMD; prevention is therefore the key. Our first step to prevention is to know the risks. Some risk factors we can not change include age, family history, gender (female), blue or light coloured irises and a fair complexion. However, quitting smoking, reducing high blood pressure, limiting UV exposure and maintaining a diet high in fruits and vegetables are all changes that will reduce the risk of developing AMD.

Limiting exposure to sunlight by wear- ing sunglasses, staying in the shade or wearing a hat will also help to decrease your risk. Certain vitamins, antioxidants and Omega 3 fatty acids have also been shown to reduce risk and slow down the progression of AMD. A diet high in beta carotene (a form of vitamin A), vitamin C and E, zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin and selenium may reduce the risk of AMD. Many of these can be found in fruits and dark green leafy vegetables

Whether you fall into a high risk category or not the most important message is early detection. Regular eye health examinations by your optometrist are essential to diagnose the early stages of AMD. You can then be counseled regarding the treatment and preventative measures that can be taken specifically for you. Your eyes deserve an optometrist.

The optometrists at Advance Eye Care Center are accepting new patients; please call 306-586-7036 to arrange an appointment or visit our website at www.advanceeyecarecenter.com