Age Related Macular Degeneration on the Rise Among Seniors

Harrisburg, PA – Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of severe vision impairment among Americans ages 65 and over. Since 2000, the prevalence of AMD in the United States increased from 1.65 million people to over 2 million by 2010. Given the rising rates of AMD among seniors, the Pennsylvania Academy of Ophthalmology encourages Pennsylvania residents to learn their risk factors and prevent vision loss from AMD.

AMD is an eye disease that damages the retina, which is the light sensitive tissue at the back of the eye that focuses images and relays them to the brain. Over time, this retinal damage can lead to permanent loss of central vision, which is essential for driving, reading and recognizing faces. Unfortunately, most people with AMD don’t notice any symptoms until there has been significant damage to the retina. There are no early warning signs for AMD, so once a person notices symptoms, there may already be permanent damage to their vision. Regular eye exams with an ophthalmologist- a medical doctor specializing in vision and eye health- are critical to ensure early detection and treatment.

“With an eye disease like age-related macular degeneration, it is important that patients are aware of their risk factors,” says Joanna Fisher, MD, the PAO Secretary of Public and Professional Information. “As an ophthalmologist, I see too many patients come into my office only after they notice a significant change in their vision. By that time the disease is usually advanced and there may be irreversible vision loss. Being informed about your risk factors, especially age, and having regular eye exams are key steps in preventing vision loss from AMD.”

The top five risk factors for developing AMD are:

•Age: The risk of developing macular degeneration jumps from about 2 percent for people in their 50s to nearly 30 percent for people over age 75.

•Family History: People who have a close family member with the disease have a greater chance of developing AMD themselves.

•Smoking: Research shows a link between smoking cigarettes and developing the more serious form of AMD, called wet AMD.

•Obesity: People who are obese are more likely to develop advanced AMD.

•Hypertension: High blood pressure – or hypertension – is also a high risk factor for developing AMD.

If you have any of these risk factors or experience symptoms of AMD, you should schedule an appointment with your ophthalmologist for a comprehensive, dilated eye exam. Your ophthalmologist may recommend certain preventive measures that can reduce your risk of vision loss from this disorder.

For patients at high risk for developing advanced AMD, certain dietary supplements that are high in vitamin C, vitamin E and beta carotene, along with zinc, has been shown to lower the risk of advanced AMD by 25 percent. Patients should check with their ophthalmologist before starting any dietary supplement.

View an AMD vision simulator to see how this eye disease can affect vision. For more information about AMD and other eye diseases, visit www.geteyesmart.org. Find an Eye M.D. in your area by visiting www.paeyemds.org.

The Pennsylvania Academy of Ophthalmology has been working to preserve and protect vision and eye health for Pennsylvania’s citizens since 1943. With member physicians throughout the Commonwealth, the PAO strives to be the voice of ophthalmology; making efforts to ensure quality eye care on the legislative and regulatory fronts, while building and maintaining relationships with major insurance carriers within the state.