by: Dave Miller
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a chronic eye disease that damages the macula, a small area near the center of the retina responsible for sharp, central vision. As the leading cause of adult blindness in the US, AMD is three times more common than glaucoma and affects more than 11 million Americans.
In the past, eye doctors (optometrists and ophthalmologists) were taught to look for declining eyesight, blurry vision, or even blindspots as the symptoms of AMD. These are symptoms of late-stage disease and often can’t be fixed once they develop. As the disease name suggests, age is the leading risk factor for developing age-related macular degeneration. Therefore, patients should start discussing AMD with their eye care professional starting at age 50 – or sooner if you have other risk factors like a family history of AMD or you are a current or former smoker.
Additionally, we know now that a night vision complaint can be a much earlier symptom of AMD. As we age, we often notice it is more difficult to drive or see at night or even read in dim light. Rather than chalking this up to “getting older,” you should take this warning sign seriously and see your eye doctor as it is often a symptom of cataracts or AMD.
How can I be tested for AMD?
Historically, eye care providers relied on a clinical examination to look for tiny cholesterol deposits called drusen. Some may also use genetic testing and macular pigment testing to determine if you are at increased risk for disease. More recently, many doctors have begun checking retinal function by testing your ability to adjust from bright light to darkness using a device called the AdaptDx Pro dark adaptometer. This test is now available in a patient-friendly, head-mounted device and has a built-in technician named Theia, who is very similar to familiar artificial intelligence helpers like Siri and Alexa. Studies have shown that this test can identify AMD three years earlier than a clinical exam and help monitor disease progression.
What can I do if I am diagnosed with AMD?
The earlier you are diagnosed with AMD, the better! Once AMD is detected, it is important to focus on the risk factors that are within your control. If you smoke, STOP! Partner with your primary care physician to lose weight and improve your cardiovascular health. Start eating a Mediterranean-style diet with healthy fats and leafy green vegetables. Also, speak with your eye care provider about nutritional supplementation that may include a combination of antioxidants, carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Visit www.maculogix.com/for-patients/ for additional information on AMD and to find a doctor who uses an AdaptDx dark adaptometer to test for early signs of AMD.