Age-related macular degeneration, commonly referred to as AMD or ARMD, is an eye disorder that causes deterioration of the central vision area of the eye, called the macula. It is currently the leading cause of vision loss and blindness in Americans over the age of 65. As its name suggests, it is more prevalent with age, but other risk factors for macular degeneration include smoking, high blood pressure, light eye color, obesity, prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays, and having a family member with ARMD.
There is currently no cure for ARMD, but there are several treatments that can slow or even stop its progression. These treatments range from nutritional supplements to doctor administered injections, depending on the stage of the disease. Also, like most health problems, early detection is the key; a complete eye exam every year will help your doctor notice any ARMD-type changes.
A cataract is a clouding of the lens that is located inside of the eye just behind the iris, the colored part of the eye. This clouding is primarily due to age; however, it can be accelerated by external factors, such as exposure to ultra violet light and smoking. Cataracts can also form more quickly in people with certain health conditions, like diabetes, and as a side effect from some medications such as steroids. Once a cataract begins to affect the vision, the cloudy lens can be surgically replaced with an artificial intraocular lens, thus restoring vision to its pre-cataract level. You can be fit with a regular intraocular lens, a special lens for astigmatism, or lens with a bifocal. Your doctor will help you best choose the intraocular lens for your lifestyle.
Diabetes and hypertension, or high blood pressure, are two of the most common systemic health problems that can affect the eyes and vision. Diabetes not only causes fluctuations in vision as blood sugar levels change, but can cause the walls of the blood vessels in the eyes to leak. This leakage may cause permanent vision loss depending on where exactly inside the eyes it occurs. Regardless, if leakage is seen inside the eyes, it is an indication that closer monitoring and better control of the blood sugar levels are needed.
Like diabetes, high blood pressure can also cause the blood vessels in the eyes to leak and lead to vision loss. Also, undiagnosed hypertension can be detected during a regular eye examination through changes to the blood vessels in the eyes. If you have been diagnosed with either diabetes or hypertension, it is strongly recommended that you have a comprehensive eye examination with dilation every year.
Glaucoma is an eye disease that causes irreversible damage to the optic nerve. This damage to the optic nerve leads to a slow deterioration of the peripheral, or side, vision. Anybody is at risk for developing glaucoma, but some people have a higher risk than others. Those who have a greater chance to develop glaucoma include people who have high eye pressures, a family history of glaucoma, who are very highly nearsighted, and people who have been diagnosed with diabetes and/or high blood pressure. Glaucoma is treatable, but needs to be caught at its early stages to prevent vision loss. A simple yearly eye exam can catch changes due to glaucoma.
The retina is the inside lining of the eye that captures images and allows us to see. Occasionally the retina can separate from the inside of the eye, known as a retinal detachment. A retinal detachment can sometimes occur for no apparent reason, but is more prevalent after ocular trauma and in people who are highly nearsighted. If not treated in a timely manner, a retinal detachment can result in blindness; however, if caught early, vision loss can be limited. Common symptoms associated with a retinal detachment are a sharp increase in black spots, floaters in the vision, and/or flashes of light. If these symptoms occur, a dilated exam of the affected eye is needed immediately.