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Macular Degeneration 101

Age-related macular degeneration, often called ARMD or AMD, is the leading cause of vision loss among Americans 65 and older.

AMD causes damage to the macula, which is the central portion of the retina responsible for sharp central vision. AMD doesn't lead to complete blindness because peripheral vision is still intact, but the loss of central vision can interfere with simple everyday activities such as reading and driving, and it can be very debilitating.

Types of Macular Degeneration

There are two types of macular degeneration: Dry AMD and Wet AMD.

Dry (non-exudative) macular degeneration constitutes approximately 85-90% of all cases of AMD. Dry AMD results from thinning of the macula or the deposition of yellow pigment known as drusen in the macula. There may be gradual loss of central vision with dry AMD, but it is usually not as severe as wet AMD vision loss. However, dry AMD can slowly progress to late-stage geographic atrophy, which can cause severe vision loss.

Wet (exudative) macular degeneration makes up the remaining 10-15% of cases. Exudative or neovascular refers to the growth of new blood vessels in the macula, where they are not normally present. The wet form usually leads to more serious vision loss than the dry form.

AMD Risk factors

  • Age is the biggest risk factor. Risk increases with age.
  • Smoking. Research shows that smoking increases your risk.
  • Family history. People with a family history of AMD are at higher risk.
  • Race. AMD is more common in Caucasians than other races, but it exists in every ethnicity.
  • Gender. AMD is more common in women than men.

Detection of AMD

There are several tests that are used to detect AMD.

A dilated eye exam can detect AMD. Once the eyes are dilated, the macula can be viewed by the ophthalmologist or optometrist. The presence of drusen and pigmentary changes can then be detected.

An Amsler Grid test uses pattern of straight lines that resemble a checkerboard. It can be used to monitor changes in vision. The onset of AMD can cause the lines on the grid to disappear or appear wavy and distorted.

Fluorescein Angiogram is a test performed in the office. A fluorescent dye is injected into the arm and then a series of pictures are taken as the dye passes through the circulatory system in the back of the eye.

Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is a test based on ultrasound. It is a painless study where high-resolution pictures are taken of the retina.

Polarized

Winter Is Prime Time for Polarized Sunglasses!

Not everyone understands the importance of sunglasses when the weather turns cold.

Polarized sunglasses are usually associated with Summer, but in some ways it is even more important to wear protective glasses during the Winter.

It’s getting to be that time of year when the sun sits at a much different angle, and its rays impact our eyes and skin at a lower position. This translates to an increase in the exposure of harmful UV rays, especially if we are not wearing the proper sunglasses as protection.

Polarized sunglasses, which are much different than the older dye-tinted lenses, are both anti-reflective and UV resistant. A good-quality polarized sunglass lens will protect you from the entire UV spectrum. This not only preserves your vision, but it also protects the skin around the eyes, which is thought to have a much higher rate of susceptibility to skin cancer.

Snow poses another issue that can be countered by polarized sunglasses.

Snow on the ground tends to act as a mirror because of its white reflective surface and this reflection can become a hindrance while driving. The anti-reflective surface of polarized sunglasses helps reduce the glare and gives drivers improved visibility.

Polarized sunglasses come in many different options based on a patient’s needs. Whether it’s single-vision distance lenses, bifocals, or progressive lenses, there is a polarized lens for every patient.

Winter is a great time of year to ask your optical department about purchasing polarized sunglasses.

 

Article contributed by Richard Striffolino Jr.

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