Saturday, November 3, 2007

Keep An Eye Out

Macular Degeneration

My mother was well into her eighties when she said that the time on her digital clock seemed to jump and she could often see more clearly if she looked at objects at an angle instead of straight on. Of course, Mom had always been healthy so we figured it was just the body taking liberties as it does when we age. We were partly right. When she fially decided the problem was chronic enough to seek attention for it we discovered Mom had age-related macular degeneration, AMD. She was immediately declared legally blind and life changed for her. As Mom had quit driving decades earlier, that part of her life did not change but she had been a voracious reader, devouring novels, magazines, bulletins, and any other printed material she could get her hands on. She kept her own checkbook and balanced it each month to the penny. All those things came to a screeching halt.

Then we began to learn about AMD. It is the leading cause of vision loss for Americans over age 50 and affects nearly 2 million people with another 7 million being at risk. AMD comes in two types, wet and dry. Wet, so called because blood or fluid leaks into the back of the eye under the macula, is the rarer of the two. Symptoms include distortions such as straight lines appearing wavy, and blind spots. The visual periphery is usually not affected so those with wet AMD can read with use of magnifiers. However, the reading process becomes slow and arduous, as only a few words at a time appear on the screen.

Dry AMD symptoms include blurred vision, the need for additional light to read, and lessening of color contrast. For the most part no treatment exists for AMD although doctors are experimenting with various drugs that may prevent AMD from becoming progressively worse. Although there is little available in the way of treatment of AMD, there are some lifestyle changes that have been reported to help. They include not smoking, eatling plenty of fish, fruit, and green leafy veggies, avoiding foods with high fat values, and of course, exercise to control blood pressure and weight. Come to think of it, that is good advice for anybody whether they are worried about AMD or not.

In addition to annual physical exams, it is a good idea for those over age 60 to have a dialated eye exam every year or two. That gives you a chance at early diagnosis and a running start on dealing with it. Remember Ben Franklin's quote, "Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise."

Dr. Forgot

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