Make an appointment


(403) 696-9465 Suite 160 - 1620 29 Street NW · Calgary · Alberta · T2N 4L7

Wink Blog


February is Age-Related Macular Degeneration & Low Vision Month

February 10th 2020

February is national “Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) and Low Vision awareness month. AMD is the leading cause of blindness in adults over the age of 60 in North America and is a progressive disease with no known cure. It is generally related to the aging process. AMD is a disease that damages the macula, which is the center of the retina responsible for sharp visual acuity in the central field of vision. Slowly, the disease steals vision, and causes the cells in that area to die. While AMD doesn’t result in complete blindness, the quality of vision is severely compromised leading to what we refer to as “low vision”. The loss of central vision can interfere with the performance of everyday tasks such as driving, reading, writing, cooking, or even recognizing faces of friends and family.

There are two types of Macular Degeneration: Dry and Wet
Dry AMD is the most common form of the disease and is considered to be more stable than wet AMD. It is characterized by blurred central vision or blind spots, as the macula begins to deteriorate slowly over time. Dry AMD is less severe than the wet form but can progress to wet AMD rapidly.
Wet AMD is less common than Dry AMD (accounts for approximately 10% of all cases) and occurs when abnormal blood vessels begin to grow under the retina and leak fluid and blood into the macula, causing distortions in vision. Wet AMD can cause permanent scarring if not treated quickly, so any sudden blur in vision should be assessed immediately, especially if one is aware that they have AMD. Symptoms of wet AMD progress at a very rapid pace.
What are the symptoms of AMD?
In the earliest stages, macular degeneration is entirely symptom free but can be detected during routine eye health examinations. The most common initial symptom is slightly blurred central vision when performing tasks that require seeing detail. Over time, the blurred area may increase in size and interfere with reading and recognizing faces. Other symptoms of AMD can cause straight lines to look wavy or distorted, and dark spots may blank out portions of the central vision. Patients experience no pain with AMD.

Are You at Risk?
The biggest risk factor for AMD is age. Individuals over 60 are most likely to develop the disease however it can occur earlier. Additional risk factors include:
Smoking: According to research smoking can double the risk of AMD.
Genetics and Family History: If AMD runs in your family you are at a higher risk. Scientists have also identified a number of particular genes that are associated with the disease.
Race: Caucasians are more likely to have AMD than those from Hispanic or African-American descent.
Lifestyle: Obesity, high cholesterol or blood pressure, poor nutrition and inactivity all contribute to the likelihood of getting AMD.
UV Exposure: People who have had extensive UV exposure are at a higher risk of developing AMD
Reducing your risk for AMD
Even though there is no known cure for AMD, practicing healthy lifestyle habits can reduce your risk for it or slow the progression of it. Here is what you can do if you have risk factors: 
Have annual eye exams, especially if you are over the age of 50
Stop smoking
Know your family history and inform your optometrist 
Eat a healthy balanced diet with plenty of green, leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, and collard greens, and fresh fruit. Fish that is high in omega-3 fatty acids is good for eye health. Types of fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring, and albacore tuna.
Include dietary supplements: Studies have shown that AREDs and ARED2 formulations indicated that a high dosage of supplements of zinc, vitamin C, vitamin E lutein, zeaxanthin may slow the progression of advanced dry AMD . Speak to a doctor before taking these supplements because there may be associated risks involved.
Maintain a healthy weight and exercise regularly
Maintain healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels. The healthier your body, the more it can foster good eye health.
Protect your eyes. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from potentially harmful ultra-violet (UV) light and blue light.

 Is there treatment for macular degeneration?
Currently, dry AMD is treated with ocular vitamin supplementation and lifestyle modifications such as exercise, sunglasses to reduce UV radiation and smoking cessation. Many cases of wet AMD can be treated with medications injected into the eye to stop leaking blood vessels. Early detection and prompt intervention are crucial to addressing wet AMD.
How can I tell if I might have AMD?
Optometrists use a test called the Amsler grid to determine the function of a patient’s central vision. Changes in central vision may result from macular or optic nerve damage.  If you are at risk of macular degeneration or other eye diseases, you can use the Amsler Grid at home to monitor your vision.  If you notice changes to the grid, you should contact your optometrist as soon as possible.

Is there help available?
Many patients with sight loss due to AMD can benefit from low vision aids. Your optometrist can prescribe magnifying devices to enhance both distance and reading vision. These aids will not restore sight to normal levels but they allow people to maximize their remaining vision.

Awareness about the disease, the risk factors and prevention are critical, even for younger generations, because taking care of your eyes while you are young will help to reduce the risks later on in life. This makes comprehensive eye exams all the more important!

Click to close