For Americans 65 years and older, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of visual impairment. This research is supported by an Ophthalmology study printed in the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Every year, AMD affects more than nine million people in America. This disease has the potential to rob people of their sight, and is often only detected through regular eye exams. The study mentioned above tracked 5,000 patients over a 20-year time period. The results of the study were that despite new drugs, disease prevention, and early detection, age-related macular degeneration still causes significant vision loss in nearly 15 percent of Americans over the age of 85. However, the best defense against AMD is still early detection. This is especially important because as Americans continue to live longer, the risk of more people developing age related diseases will increase as well.
WHAT IS AGE RELATED MACULAR DEGENERATION?
AMD is a disease that involves the retina. The retina is the light sensitive tissue located at the back of the eye. This area of the eye is responsible for focusing on images and then relaying them to the brain. Retinal damage can lead to central vision loss that can become permanent. Central vision is vital to life because it is needed for driving, recognizing faces, and reading.
SYMPTOMS OF AMD
Most commonly, there are no early symptoms of age-related macular degeneration, and the only way it can be detected early is through routine eye screenings by an ophthalmologist. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, any person over the age of 40 should have a baseline eye exam.
WHY DETECTING AGE RELATED MACULAR DEGENERATION EARLY IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER
Generation after generation, seniors are living longer lives. The key to ensuring seniors live the best life possible is keeping them healthy and active. One of the best ways to do both of these things is to ensure seniors can drive safely well into their golden years, have the ability to read a good book, as well as warning signs, and reduce their risk of falls and injuries too. Each of these goals can be accomplished by helping seniors preserve their vision well into the senior years.
As mentioned above, age related macular degeneration baseline screening should be performed when a person turns 40 years old. At age 65 years old, AMD examinations should be completed at least once every one or two years, or as directed by your ophthalmologist. These exams should be completed by an ophthalmologist. During an AMD screening, an ophthalmologist will perform a dilated eye exam to check for any signs or symptoms of AMD. Better yet, many people in the age group 65 and older qualify for free eye exams. These complimentary exams are available through EyeCare America.
WHAT IS EYECARE AMERICA?
EyeCare America is a public service program created by the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Seniors have to qualify for free exams through EyeCare America. Once accepted into the program, the organization matches patients with local eye doctors in their area. EyeCare America’s service is made possible through the support of the Knights Templar Foundation, Genentech, and Alcon.
AMD RESOURCE AT NO CHARGE THROUGH HOPE IN SIGHT
To help deter the effects of AMD on older generations, several organizations are combining to make AMD screenings easily available and most of all affordable for seniors who may have very limited budgets. The groups involved in the AMD efforts include the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Society of Retina Specialists. The latter organization is a specialized collection of ophthalmologists who specialize in AMD. The organizations have partnered with Genentech to provide these services at no charge through the program Hope in Sight: Living with Macular Degeneration. The spokesperson for Hope in Sight is Deirdre Hall, star of the soap opera Days of Our Lives. While working with Hope in Sight, Hall shares her mother’s personal experiences with AMD.
With an intense amount of support from the medical community and an increased awareness of the disease, the best defense against AMD continues to be early detection. In fact, the sooner AMD is detected, the better the chances of patients being able to have treatments that will allow them to save their sight. Being able to preserve your sight for as long as possible is the key to allowing seniors to enjoy full lives well into their golden years.