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Savvy Living

Savvy Senior

Tips to Prevent and Treat Age-Related Macular Degeneration

My parent lost much of their vision from age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Is macular degeneration hereditary? What can you tell me?

Unfortunately, having a parent or sibling with macular degeneration increases your chances of developing the condition by three to four times. However, the good news is that there are steps you can take to protect your eyesight and treatments available if you do get it. Here is what you should know.

What is AMD?

Macular degeneration, also known as age-related macular degeneration, is the most common cause of severe vision loss in people over age 60, affecting an estimated 20 million Americans.

AMD is a progressive eye disease that damages the macula, the part of the eye that allows us to see objects clearly, causing vision loss in the center of your vision. This affects the ability to do routine daily tasks like reading, driving and watching television, but it does not cause total blindness.

There are two types of AMD – dry and wet. Dry AMD, which affects about 85% to 90% of all people that have AMD, progresses slowly and painlessly over a period of years. Wet AMD is much more aggressive and can cause severe vision loss in a matter of weeks or months.

Factors that can increase your risk of getting AMD include age (60 and older), smoking, excessive exposure to sunlight especially if you have light-colored eyes, certain genetic components, a family history of AMD, high blood pressure, obesity and race.

What You Can Do

For anyone over the age of 65, it is recommended to have an annual eye examination by an ophthalmologist. They can spot early signs of AMD before vision loss occurs. Early signs may include shadowy areas in your central vision or unusually fuzzy or distorted vision.

The Amsler grid is also an excellent tool to check your eyes for AMD at home. You can find and use an Amsler chart by searching for it online.

There is currently no cure for AMD but if you are high risk, there are steps you can take to help manage it. These include eating antioxidant-rich foods such as dark green, leafy vegetables, and cold-water fish for their omega-3 fatty acids. Protecting your eyes from the sun by wearing UV protective sunglasses, controlling high blood pressure and exercising regularly may also help. If you smoke, quitting is another important step to help reduce risk.

Dry AMD Treatments

If you are diagnosed with AMD, your doctor may recommend taking a daily dose of antioxidant vitamins and minerals known as AREDS or AREDS2. Studies by the National Eye Institute have shown that while taking these supplements cannot prevent you from getting AMD, they can reduce your risk of progression from intermediate to advanced AMD by about 25%.

There are also two new medications (Syfovre and Izervay) that were approved by the FDA last year to treat a late-stage form of AMD called geographic atrophy (GA). These treatments, which are given either monthly or every other month in the form of an injection into the eye, can slow the progression of GA.

Wet AMD Treatments

For wet AMD, there are several anti-vascular endothelial growth factor drugs (anti-VEGF) medications like Avastin, Lucentis and Eylea that can stop vision loss and may even restore it. These medications, which have been around for more than a decade, are also given by injection into the eye and repeated every month or two.

Newer anti-VEGF drugs, like Vabysmo and Eyla HD, are also highly effective but do not require monthly treatments. Most patients on these medications can go three to four months between injections.

Medical Advice

The information in this article is for informational purposes only. Always consult the advice of a doctor or other qualified medical professional for any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published July 19, 2024

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