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Age-Related Macular Degeneration: What You Need to Know. | Generations Home Care
age-related macular degeneration

Vision loss is a common ailment among older people. By some estimates, one in three Americans over 65 deals with a vision-reducing eye disease. For seniors, the most common types of eye diseases are glaucoma, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Among these diseases, AMD is the leading cause of severe, permanent vision loss in people over 60. While the condition doesn’t typically cause blindness, it can have a profoundly negative impact on a person’s day-to-day life.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, “approximately 6.5 percent of Americans age 40 and older have some degree of macular degeneration.” However, a person’s chances of developing the disease increase with age. The American Eye Institute reports that 14% of white Americans over 80 develop the disease. As the population grows older, the disease will become more common. Some research “suggests there were 9.1 million cases of early AMD in the U.S. in 2010, and researchers expect this number to increase to 17.8 million by the year 2050.”

What is Age-Related Macular Degeneration?

AMD occurs when the macula, located at the center part of the retina, begins to wear out. Because the retina is the light-sensing nerve which allows us to see, people with AMD begin to experience central vision loss. There are two primary forms of AMD:

  • Dry Form: The most common type of AMD represents 80% of all cases. In dry AMD, the macula gets thinner with age, and small clumps of a protein called drusen begin to grow. Roughly 10% of dry AMD cases develop into the more severe wet AMD.
  • Wet Form: A much rarer form of AMD, this type develops as abnormal blood vessels grow beneath the retina. As the vessels grow, they may leak blood or other fluids which scar the macula. People with the wet form of AMD lose their vision much faster than those with the dry form.

It’s not always easy to spot the symptoms of AMD early. However, if your vision worsens, becomes blurry, or if it becomes hard to read fine print or drive, you should consult an eye doctor. Also, early signs of AMD may include dark or blurry areas in the center of your vision, or in limited cases, changes in color perception.

What Causes AMD?

While the exact cause of AMD isn’t known, researchers believe it might be genetic. A person’s risk of developing the disease is higher if someone in their family has AMD. Other risk factors for AMD include,

  • Smoking.
  • High blood pressure or high cholesterol.
  • Obesity.
  • Diets high in saturated fats.
  • Being light-skinned.
  • Being female.
  • Having a light eye color.

How is Age-Related Macular Degeneration Treated?

Macular degeneration is an incurable disease. However, depending on the form of the disease, some available treatments may slow a person’s vision loss.

Dry AMD Treatments

There are currently no approved treatments for the dry form of AMD. However, two extensive studies have recently shown “a supplement formula that has vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, zinc, and copper” can reduce the risk of vision loss for some people with dry AMD. Researchers updated the formula with a version that may be safer for smokers by adding lutein, zeaxanthin, and omega-3 fatty acids and removing beta-carotene.

Wet AMD Treatments

People with the wet form of AMD face a more serious threat to their vision. However, they also have more treatment options, including,

  • Anti-angiogenesis drugs: These medications block the creation of blood vessels and leaking blood vessels, which cause wet AMD. Many people who’ve taken these drugs have regained some of their lost vision. However, you may have to take multiple treatments.
  • Laser therapy: Certain kinds of laser light can destroy the abnormal blood vessels causing wet AMD.
  • Photodynamic laser therapy: A doctor injects a light-sensitive drug into your bloodstream, which is then absorbed by the abnormal blood vessels. The doctor then shines a laser into your eye, which triggers the medication to damage the irregular blood vessels.
  • Low vision aids: These are special devices that help people with AMD vision loss make the most of their remaining vision.

How Does Age-Related Macular Degeneration Impact Senior’s Lives?

While dry AMD negatively affects vision, the wet form of AMD is a leading cause of permanent vision loss. If someone has wet AMD in both eyes, it can severely impact their quality-of-life. People with severe center vision loss have difficulty reading, recognizing faces, driving, watching television, using a computer, or any other task that requires seeing fine detail. In these instances, AMD patients may need in-home help to accomplish the tasks of everyday living.

How Can In-Home Care Help

In-home care providers, like Generations Home Care, place trained caregivers into their client’s homes to assist with daily tasks. For people with severe vision loss, this help could include transportation to doctor’s visits, running errands and grocery shopping, meal preparation, or simple companionship. In our experience, seniors who receive in-home care are generally happier and more secure in their own homes. Also, in-home care may help seniors delay a move into expensive assisted living communities. If you or someone you love lives in Arizona and is facing vision loss, contact us today. We’ll conduct a free in-home assessment and create a customized action plan that will help your senior dramatically improve their quality-of-life.

Vision loss from conditions like AMD is undoubtedly life-altering. However, with the right help, the day-to-day impacts of vision loss can be mitigated. Let us show you how we can help.

About Generations Home Care

Generations Home Care personalized in-home care and support services help those recovering from illness, injury, or surgery, living with a chronic disease, or dealing with the natural process of aging. We help people live a fuller, healthier, and independent life.

We offer levels of care ranging from companionship, to respite for the primary family caregiver, to homemaking services, to assistance with activities of daily living, to Alzheimer’s and dementia care. Generations Home Care takes a holistic approach and emphasizes a consistent, client-centered plan of care.

Our Specialty Services Include:

  • Rehab or hospital-to-home programs for safe discharge.
  • Short-term post-operative care during recovery periods.
  • Non-medical life management services for people with chronic conditions.
  • Veteran’s connection to care program.
  • Live-in services and couples care.

If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you, contact us today at 602-595-HOME (4663) or by filling out the contact form on our website.

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About the author - Josh Friesen

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