Age-related macular degeneration is a chronic eye disease that damages the macula, a small area near the center of the retina responsible for sharp, central vision.
In the past, eye doctors were taught to look for declining eyesight, blurry vision or even blind spots as the symptoms of AMD. However, these are late-stage symptoms of the disease and often can’t be fixed once they develop. Fortunately, we now know that difficulty with night vision can be a much earlier symptom of AMD. As we age, we often notice it is challenging to drive or see at night, or even read in dim light. Rather than chalking this up to “getting older,” you should take this warning sign seriously and see your eye doctor.
How can I be tested for AMD?
Historically, eye-care providers relied on a clinical examination to look for tiny cholesterol deposits called drusen. Some may also use genetic testing and macular pigment testing to determine if you are at increased risk for disease. However, for the past several years, many doctors have begun checking retinal function by testing your ability to adjust from bright light to darkness using a device called the AdaptDx dark adaptometer. Studies have shown that this test can identify AMD three years earlier than a clinical exam.
What can I do if I am diagnosed with AMD?
The earlier you are diagnosed with AMD, the better. Once AMD is detected, it is important to focus on the risk factors that are within your control. Stop smoking, partner with your primary care physician to lose weight and improve your cardiovascular health. Start eating a Mediterranean-style diet with healthy fats and leafy green vegetables. Also, speak with your eye care provider about nutritional supplementation that may include a combination of antioxidants, carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Paul Karpecki, O.D., [email protected]