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Early Diagnosis, Treatment Make Seeing Clearly with AMD a Reality
Retina Specialists Urge Public to Learn More During Age-Related Macular Degeneration Awareness Month
News Release -- CHICAGO (January 26, 2021) – Less than twenty years ago, most people diagnosed with advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD) were destined to become legally blind. Today, advances in the diagnosis and treatment of AMD made possible by retina specialists allow many patients with advanced AMD to keep reading, driving and enjoying their independence.
AMD, a disease that affects the small central area of the retina known as the macula, is the leading cause of vision loss in older Americans. Eleven million people in the United States have some form of AMD. There are two major types of AMD, wet and dry. Most patients have early or intermediate dry AMD which can remain stable for a lifetime or can slowly degrade vision. Around ten percent of patients with intermediate AMD will develop wet AMD, an advanced form of AMD in which abnormal, leaking blood vessels develop beneath the macula and can cause rapid and severe vision loss in one or both eyes.
During February’s Age-Related Macular Degeneration Awareness Month, the American Society of Retina Specialists (ASRS) and its members encourage the public to learn the risk factors, signs, and symptoms of AMD and to seek early diagnosis and treatment if symptoms appear in order to safeguard their sight.
“Advanced imaging technologies and new treatments for the wet form of AMD have ushered in an era of retinal care in which we can preserve and even improve many patients’ vision,” said ASRS President Carl C. Awh, MD. “The key, however, is early diagnosis and treatment by a retina specialist. Our current treatments, if administered early and regularly, can help patients maintain excellent vision for a lifetime.”
Liz Rundzieher credits knowing the risk factors and symptoms of AMD and seeking early treatment with saving her sight. AMD is powerfully influenced by genetics and Liz has a significant family history of AMD, including her mother and her aunt. Liz vividly recalls how her aunt, who suffered from advanced AMD, had to navigate her home by counting steps and feeling for furniture and doorways.
Fortunately, Liz did not share the same fate as her aunt. After she was diagnosed with early AMD, Liz was instructed to monitor her vision with an Amsler Grid, a simple method of home vision screening that takes less than a minute per day. For years, Liz stopped at her refrigerator every day and checked her familiar black and white grid to confirm that the vertical and horizontal lines appeared straight and there were no blurry areas or dark spots. On the day that the straight lines appeared wavy, Liz was frightened but she also knew what to do. She quickly contacted her eye doctor.
Liz was referred to a retina specialist and diagnosed with wet AMD. She was immediately started on a course of treatment that involved regular injections of medications into her eye. Thanks to her vigilance and to the prompt initiation of treatment, she maintains excellent vision to this day.
The American Society of Retina Specialists wants the public to take the following steps to guard against vision loss from AMD:
Zero-in on AMD Risk Factors –The primary risk factor for AMD is age—the older you are, the greater your risk. Genetics also has a powerful influence—people with a family history of AMD are at higher risk.
Other factors known to increase your risk for AMD:
- Cigarette smoking
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Excessive sun exposure
- A diet deficient in fruits and vegetables
Set Your Sights on AMD Symptoms –In a recent survey by the ASRS, more than 2 in 5 (43%) adults over 40 in the U.S. did not know that gradual or sudden loss of central vision could be a symptom of AMD.
In the early stages, AMD may have no symptoms at all. As the disease progresses, the symptoms may include:
- A slight decline in visual acuity or your ability to clearly see letters or objects
- A decrease in the intensity or brightness of colors
If macular degeneration progresses to the advanced stages, symptoms may include:
- Distortion (warping) of straight lines
- Missing areas of central vision
- Sudden blurred central vision
If you have AMD and experience any of these symptoms, see a retina specialist as soon as possible.
Be Proactive about AMD to Preserve Vision –Retina specialists encourageeveryone, and especially those at higher risk of AMD, to take steps to maintain healthy retinas including:
- Get regular dilated retina exams, which can identify early signs of retinal disease
- Don’t smoke or take steps to quit if you currently smoke
- Stay active and maintain a healthy weight
- Control blood pressure and blood sugar
- Eat nutritious food including dark, leafy greens and fish
- Avoid excessive sun exposure
“With new imaging devices that allow retina specialists to look at each individual layer of the retina, as well as the discovery of anti-VEGF treatments that control the leakage and growth of abnormal blood vessels in the eye, we can now slow and even stop the progression of wet AMD,” said Timothy G. Murray, MD, MBA, president of the Foundation of the ASRS. “If you have a family history of AMD or experience any AMD symptoms, make an appointment with a retina specialist right away so we can use advanced retinal imaging and early treatment, if needed, to help preserve your vision.”
For more information about AMD download ASRS’s AMD infographic. Learn more about maintaining retina health for good vision at asrs.org/retinahealthseries and find your retina specialist by visiting asrs.org/findyourretinaspecialist.
The American Society of Retina Specialists (ASRS) is the largest organization of retina specialists in the world, representing more than 3,000 physicians in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and 63 countries. Retina specialists are board-certified ophthalmologists who have completed fellowship training in the medical and surgical treatment of retinal diseases. The mission of the ASRS is to provide a collegial and open forum for education, to advance the understanding and treatment of vitreoretinal diseases, and to enhance the ability of its members to provide the highest quality of patient care. Learn more at ASRS.org. Like ASRS on Facebook, subscribe to our YouTube channel, and follow us on Twitter for the latest retina health information.