It strikes like a thief in the night.
The disease, if left untreated, can slowly steal your central vision, leaving you blind for the rest of your life.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) affects more than 10 million people in the U.S.
“This is the most common cause of vision loss that is not correctable by lenses or cataract surgery, and is very common in the 80-plus group. Fifty percent of my patients have that disease,” said ophthalmologist Dr. Malcolm Ing. “That occurs at the back of the eye, right near the optic nerve, right where my finger is. That is the macular, and that is the area that deteriorates.”
Patients may notice blacking or graying out at the central part of their vision while reading.
Patients with dry AMD receive antioxidants as treatment. Those with Wet AMD are at higher risk of going blind and must receive injections directly into the eyes every six weeks.
“It’s a downhill slide right away if you see hemorrhages in the macular,” Ing said. If left “untreated, you can go blind within a week.”
One way to avoid this is to not smoke.
“For instance, if you smoke, you have four times the incidents – four times – 400 percent increase in macular degeneration,” Ing explained.
Controlling your weight also helps.
“We found that you have a big opu, like some of the people have in our kupuna group, then you increase your incidents by 200 percent, so twice as likely to have that problem,” Ing said.
Belly fat produces inflammatory chemicals that target our eyes and brain. Eating fish can reduce risk of AMD by 40 percent, and so can eating green leafy vegetables.
“Eat your spinach, because it has green leafy vegetables, and green leafy vegetables has nutrients that help protect the retina,” Ing said.
February is AMD Awareness Month, another reason to see your eye doctor regularly.