Sight is one of our five senses and the one people are most fearful of losing, but often taken for granted. Less than 50% of adults have ever had an eye exam. Most people think if they are not having blurred vision or eye discomfort, then they don’t need an eye exam. Nothing could be further from the truth. February is an excellent time of year to reflect on your eye health and vision, being that it is Low Vision Awareness Month. Low vision describes a loss of vision so severe enough that it cannot be corrected with conventional eyeglasses or contact lenses. This degree of visual impairment affects around half a million Canadians. It makes daily activities like reading, cooking, and enjoying TV difficult. Vision loss can leave people feeling helpless, anxious, and depressed. It puts them at risk for falls. There are vision rehabilitation programs that help people use their remaining vision to maximum and maintain their independence and high-quality of life.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss for people over the age of 50. It is an eye disorder characterized by either slow or sudden central vision loss. Our central vision is responsible for our most precise vision, it is how we read and recognize faces and other fine details. It can make their vision blurred and cause dark spots to appear that get progressively larger. AMD makes it difficult to read, write, drive, and recognize faces because straight lines can appear curved and colors become less vivid.
Dry and wet are the two types of AMD.
Dry macular degeneration – This develops gradually. UV protection, ocular vitamins containing anti-oxidants, home self-assessment with an Amsler Grid, and maintaining normal blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels are all recommended to reduce the rate or incidence of progression. It accounts for 90% of cases.
Symptoms – After the onset of AMD, symptoms may not appear for up to 10 years and often affects the eyes of an individual asymmetrically. When symptoms do appear, they may include:
- Needing brighter light to read
- Text or fine details appearing blurry
- The slow recovery of visual functioning after bright light exposure
- Colors looking less vibrant
- Difficulty recognizing faces
Wet macular degeneration – When new blood vessels develop under the macula it can cause blood and fluid to leak which obscures vision. Can appear as though there is a central blind spot, or more subtle changes like seeing straight lines or edges as wavy. This is the most severe type of AMD. It accounts for about 10% of cases, but if symptoms appear, immediate treatment is necessary.
Treatment of Wet AMD: Anti-angiogenesis drugs such as Aflibercept, Avastin, Eyelea, and Lucentis, block the development of new blood vessels and prevents leakage from the abnormal vessels found beneath the retina that causes wet macular degeneration. This treatment has been a major breakthrough in the treatment of Wet AMD. Many patients have actually gained vision that was lost after treatment. The treatment is usually for many months and involves the injection of the medications directly into the eye with a needle.
The exact cause of AMD is unknown, but it has been linked to various risk factors:
Age – incidence increases after the 5th decade of life
Ethnicity – Caucasians develop AMD more than other ethnic groups.
Family history – People with close relatives that have AMD are more likely to develop AMD.
Smoking – Smokers are four times more likely to get AMD.
Farsightedness – people that are farsighted are at increased risk, reason unknown
Eye Color – lighter colored eyes are more likely to develop AMD.
Obesity – Excessive weight combined with high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels appear to increase an individual’s chances of developing AMD.
Gender – females are more prone to developing AMD.
Having regular routine eye examinations is the first step in prevention. If you experience any of the symptoms listed above, contact the eye care office of Dr. Jeff Sciberras. As a licensed optometrist, he can perform a comprehensive eye health and vision examination. He is also able to provide low vision assessments and recommend visual aids when needed. Keep in mind, not all eye diseases have early vision loss or associated pain and 20/20 does not guarantee healthy eyes. Below is the recommended frequency of eye exams based on age.
INFANTS – BY AGE 6 MONTHS
CHILDREN – AGE 3 AND THEN YEARLY
ADULTS 20 TO 60 – EVERY 2 YEARS
60+ – YEARLY EYE EXAMS
*Patients with diabetes regardless of age or type should be seen annually.
Watch these short info videos to learn more about AMD. BEGIN
Learn more about Age-Related Macular Degeneration by reading this handy article.