Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in older adults in the United States. Approximately 20 million adults in the US suffer from age-related macular degeneration (AMD). A recent study reveals that the number of AMD cases has doubled from previous estimates. In 2019, 18 million people over 40 were diagnosed with early-stage AMD, and 1.49 million with late-stage.
With such an important topic it is important to clarify some of the common misconceptions that people have about macular degeneration (AMD).
What is macular degeneration?
Macular degeneration is an eye condition that affects the central part of the retina, known as the macula. The macula is responsible for providing sharp, central vision and is essential for activities such as reading, driving, and recognizing faces. As the macula deteriorates, these activities can become difficult or impossible to perform.
What are some common misconceptions about AMD?
Some common misconceptions about AMD include:
- That nothing can be done to prevent AMD: While there is currently no cure for AMD, certain lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking and maintaining a healthy diet, can help reduce the risk of developing the disease. The Age Related Eye Disease Study demonstrated that a specific diet or supplement reduces the progression of the disease. Furthermore there is promising research in advanced stages to prevent and treat AMD in the future.
- That only older adults are affected by AMD: Although the risk of AMD increases with age, it can also occur in younger individuals, hence it is important to be aware of the risk factors and to take preventative measures at any age.
- That AMD is only caused by genetics: While genetics can play a role in the development of AMD, there are also several other risk factors such as age, smoking, and a diet low in fruits and vegetables.
- That AMD leads to complete blindness: While the disease may cause significant vision loss, the disease does not always lead to blindness or severe vision loss. This is why it is extremely important to diagnose AMD early and follow the recommendations of your eye doctor. For those patients who have lost vision there are still ways to maintain some level of functional vision, such as through low vision rehabilitation and devices.
- That all symptoms of AMD are similar: AMD can be classified into two types: dry AMD and wet AMD, and each type has different symptoms and progression. Furthermore not everyone has the same experience of symptoms even if they have the same diagnosis.
- That symptoms of AMD are not noticeable: The early signs of AMD can be subtle and may not be noticed by the affected person, oftentimes the patient may find it a little more challenging to read or see at night. Because early signs of AMD can be hard to notice, it's important to have annual comprehensive eye exams to detect any changes in vision as soon as possible.
- That once you lose vision there is no way to regain your independence or improve your day to day life. in fact a low vision optometrist specializes in helping people with AMD regain their independence and improve their remaining vision.
- That there is no treatment for AMD: While there is no cure for AMD, there are treatments available that can help slow the progression of the disease and improve vision. This includes anti-VEGF injections, laser therapy, and vitamins and supplements.