Many of us have older family members who “went blind’ later in life. Oftentimes these stories were legendary and spoken about in whispers as aging family members who were not accustomed to or able to go to the doctor didn’t…so exactly why they lost sight remained a mystery. The burden on family and society was palpable with so much care needed for those who could no longer see to care for themselves.
Today with incredible advances in diagnostic and therapeutic capabilities in eye care, we now know that this mysterious disease that afflicted so many of our older relatives and friends was Age-related Macular Degeneration or AMD. AMD is the leading cause of blindness in Americans over 65 years of age. It comes in two forms, dry and wet. Dry AMD is a generally slowly progressive condition of the specialized part of the retina called the macula, where central reading vision decreases. People with dry AMD may develop the Wet form and suddenly lose central vision when a hemorrhage occurs. The financial impact of vision loss from AMD nationally is estimated to be $40 billion.
Thankfully now there are some excellent treatments for AMD that can maintain vision for doing activities we all take for granted such as driving and reading. Oral supplements containing lutein and zinc are recommended as well (see Macularhealth.com).
February is National AMD Awareness Month. Maybe for this Valentine’s Day (after the chocolates & flowers of course), make “low vision” a thing of the past by making an eye appointment for your loved one.
Dr. Holly Young