February is Macular Degeneration Awareness Month

Serving Poughkeepsie, Fishkill and Nearby Areas of the Hudson Valley

Enlarge Text: A+A-

February is Age-Related Macular Degeneration Awareness Month, an effort on the part of the American Academy of Ophthalmology to draw attention to the leading cause of blindness among older Americans.

Macular degeneration cannot be cured, but it can be managed, and the sooner intervention begins, the lower your risks of losing your vision. Even if you are not experiencing any of the symptoms of macular degeneration, if you are over the age of 60 and have not been to the eye doctor for a while, call our Fishkill or Poughkeepsie office to schedule your next examination today.

What is the Macula?

When you see an image, you are not seeing the image itself, but rather the effect of light reflecting off of it. The cornea, at the front of the eye, is where light first enters, but it isn’t processed until it reaches the retina – the part of the eye that processes light and turns it into visual information.

The retina is full of neurons called photoreceptors. When light enters the cornea, the eye’s lens focuses that information towards these neurons, which turn that information into electrical signals that can be sent, via the optic nerve, to the brain, which further processes the information to create an image. This entire complex process happens near instantaneously, over and over, every second your eyes are open. Even a small glitch in the system can cause serious problems.

The macula is the part of the retina responsible for central vision. With a high concentration of photoreceptor cells, the macula allows you to perform visual tasks that require fine detail such as using a computer or smartphone, seeing and recognizing faces, watching television or movies, and driving safely during the day and night. As we age, blood vessels that supply the macula can harden and narrow, depriving the macula of nutrients and oxygen, and allowing it to degenerate. As the macula degenerates, it destroys sensitive neurons in the retina and causes a loss of central vision. This condition is known as age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

How Does AMD Develop?

Macular degeneration is an age-related vision disorder. This means that, even without risk factors, it is possible to develop the condition as a consequence of aging. However, many cases of macular degeneration can be traced to genetics.

Whether you are predisposed to AMD or not, you increase your risks significantly if you use tobacco. Nicotine, a vasoconstrictor, causes damage to blood vessels and arteries, even without the 7,000+ chemicals released by smoking tobacco. Add that chemical cocktail and smokers find themselves 4x more likely to develop AMD than nonsmokers. If you have a genetic predisposition to AMD, that risk increases 20x over.

In addition to lifestyle choices like tobacco use, risks for AMD are increased in people who:

  • Have a heart condition or disease
  • Are overweight
  • Have uncontrolled blood pressure

If you are at risk for AMD, it is important that you begin seeing an eye doctor every year at the age of 40. Even if you are not at risk, seeing an eye doctor yearly is a good way to protect your vision into the future.

What are the Symptoms of AMD?

Symptoms of AMD include:

  • A dark or empty spot in the central field of vision
  • Blurry or fuzzy vision
  • Straight lines appearing to wave
  • Diminished color sensitivity/fading

AMD may also make objects appear smaller than they actually are. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, get in touch with our office right away to learn how we can help.

Treating AMD

Age-related macular degeneration cannot be cured and once damage has occurred, it cannot be undone. This makes swift detection your best hope for continued vision as you age.

The most common treatments for AMD are laser photocoagulation, a process that closes leaking blood vessels with laser energy, and anti-VEGF therapy and medications, which work to suspend the vascular endothelial growth factor, a molecule that can produce leaky blood vessels in patients with AMD.

Lifestyle changes, including dietary improvements, increasing activity levels, and giving up all tobacco products may help manage macular degeneration as well. Our board-certified ophthalmologists will take time to fully assess your situation, enabling them to provide you with personalized recommendations for the treatment of your condition.

Call Seeta Eye Centers at 845-454-1025 to schedule an eye examination at our Poughkeepsie or Fishkill office. We welcome patients from Milton, Crown Heights, Highland, and all surrounding Hudson Valley communities.