Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) risk is higher in adults whose eyes adjust to darkness slowly, according to research findings. Your eyes’ ability to adjust to the dark after bright light is called dark adaptation. Researchers believe the time it takes for you to adjust to darkness offers some insight into your AMD risk.
The research uncovered that individuals with the slowest dark adaptation response had the greatest risk of developing AMD. The researchers consider dark adaptation measurement instrumental in tracking AMD progression as well as assessing the effectiveness of medications.
Vision is one of the five senses, enabling us to see the world and function in it safely. Over time, vision loss may occur, complicating one’s ability to see. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of blindness and vision loss in America. Roughly 1.8 million Americans are estimated to have AMD, according to the Centers of Disease Control.
Age-related macular degeneration is a condition that progresses with age. It begins to affect people over the age of 40 by hindering sharp and central vision. Central vision is used for activities such as reading and driving. When central vision begins to deteriorate it can make daily tasks quite difficult.
AMD affects the macula, the central part of the retina, which allows us to see the fine details. AMD can come in two forms: wet and dry.
Causes and symptoms of age-related macular degeneration
Causes of age-related macular degeneration depend on its type. Wet AMD results when abnormal blood vessels behind the retina grow under the macula. This leads to blood and fluid leakage. This form of AMD is often characterized by rapid central vision loss.
Dry AMD, on the other hand, is when the macula becomes thinner through aging. Roughly 70 to 90 percent of AMD cases are the dry form. Unlike wet AMD, dry AMD progresses slowly, and it can affect either one or both eyes.
Stages of age-related macular degeneration
There are three stages of AMD: Early, intermediate, and late.
Early AMD is characterized by the presence of medium-sized drusen, which are yellow tissue deposits under the retina. No vision loss is experienced.
In intermediate, drusen get larger, and pigment changes may occur to the retina. At this stage, AMD-related changes are detected chiefly through an eye exam. Some vision loss may occur, but other symptoms are not present.
In late AMD, vision loss and damage to the macula take place. There are two types of late AMD: geographic atrophy (dry AMD) and neovascular AMD (wet AMD)
9 symptoms of dry age-related macular degeneration
- Need for a brighter light when looking at something closely
- Trouble adapting to low light
- Printed words become increasingly blurry
- Colors don’t appear as vibrant
- Faces become harder to recognize
- Haziness increases in central vision
- Central vision may appear crooked
- Blurry central vision or a blind spot appears
- In advanced AMD, hallucinations of geometric shapes
Risk factors for AMD
The biggest risk factor for age-related macular degeneration is aging. As early as 40, people can start noticing changes to their central vision. Other uncontrollable risk factors for AMD include race – Caucasians are more likely to develop AMD – and family history. Although you cannot control aging, race, and family history, there are other risk factors that are manageable.
5 additional risk factors of AMD
- Unhealthy diet
- Elevated cholesterol
- Cardiovascular disease
Treatment and prevention of age-related macular degeneration
Although treatment cannot reverse dry AMD, it can help improve vision for the patient to continue living a normal, healthy life. The use of corrective lenses, either glasses or contacts, can help improve your central vision. Annual checkups with an ophthalmologist are important for monitoring the progress of AMD. Regular visits to the optometrists are key for early detection of the AMD onset.
Just like an unhealthy diet can increase one’s risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, eating a healthy diet can improve the condition. Ensure you’re enjoying a variety of fruits and vegetables, which are nutrient powerhouses.
Eye exercises may help maintain vision. Healthy lifestyle habits can also help you support your vision health. Not smoking, controlling blood pressure and cholesterol, and wearing protective eyewear – sunglasses, safety goggles – can all contribute to healthier vision and slow down progression of age-related macular degeneration.