Age-related macular degeneration is a common condition which many of us have never heard of. In the US alone, it’s estimated that over 9 million people suffer from it. This number is expected to double by the year 2050. Macular degeneration is also the leading cause of blindness among the older generations. February has been declared macular degeneration awareness month in an effort to raise awareness and to help educate people about the condition.
Research into the treatment of macular degeneration has made huge advances in the past 10 years. With early detection and intervention, half of all cases of macular degeneration related blindness can now be prevented. In other cases, the condition can be effectively treated and managed.
What is macular degeneration?
Macular degeneration is the primary cause of severe loss of vision in the over 50s. It is an age-related disease involving the macula–part of the retina which responsible for the central section of our vision. The macula’s health affects our ability to see clearly. Including the vibrancy of colors, sharpness, and finer details. It helps us to recognize faces, read, drive, use a computer, and watch television.
In the early stages, macular degeneration presents very few symptoms. The disease progresses slowly and without any pain. Early signs to look out for include seeing a shadowy or blurred area in your central field of vision. Lines begin to look wavy. Eventually, sufferers begin to see blind spots in front of the eyes.
Why is there a macular degeneration awareness month?
Prevent Blindness is America’s oldest volunteer organization focused on eye health and safety. They are dedicated to preserving sight and preventing blindness. Together with the American Academy of Ophthalmology, they aim to remind those with macular degeneration that their sight can be saved. By raising awareness throughout the month of February, they hope to encourage people at risk to get regular eye checks.
Although it almost never results in complete blindness, macular degeneration has the potential to significantly disable vision. Detecting the condition in its early stages is the first step to receiving successful treatment.
Who is most at risk?
Being an age-related condition, the chances of contracting the disease is greatest in people over the age of 50. This risk increases considerably for those who are 75 or older. However, there are other contributing factors which should be taken into consideration.
Genetics and a family history of macular degeneration can put you more at risk. Biological sex and race can also play a part as women and certain ethnicities are more susceptible. Smoking, eating a high-fat diet, and obesity can advance the progress of the disease. And, if unmanaged, high blood pressure may also increase the chances of developing macular degeneration.
How to get involved in macular degeneration awareness month
Macular degeneration awareness month is about educating everyone about this common condition. You can get involved by making sure your family, friends, and loved ones all know about how macular degeneration related blindness can be averted. Make people aware of the symptoms so that they know what to look out for. Encourage them to schedule regular eye tests to catch the disease before symptoms progress.
Hope for the future
Being diagnosed with macular degeneration does not necessarily mean you will lose your sight and independence. Although there is no permanent cure, the disease can be managed. Treatment options are dependent on the severity and type of deterioration the macula is facing.
With developments in treatment options, there are a number of medications and therapies available. Doctors can now prevent a further loss of vision and can even help you regain sight. And current research is ongoing in the areas of stem cell and gene therapy, so the future is looking very bright.
Raising awareness of macular degeneration will help make a difference to millions of people around the country. Seeing your optometrist for an eye test every year is vitally important. It really could save your sight and keep the future looking crystal clear.
If you are concerned that you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms, do not delay. Contact or visit us to arrange an appointment and to schedule your regular eye exams
We can also provide you more info here about macular degeneration. The New Jersey Eye Center is pleased to support macular degeneration awareness month this February.
Let us help you preserve your sight!
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