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Regular Eye Tests May Prevent Age-Related Blindness
People over 50 should have regular eye examinations at least one a year to detect the early signs of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness in that age group.
This is highly recommended for patients considered at risk for AMD such as smokers, those with high blood pressure or coronary heart disease, light skin or eye color, and people with a diet low in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Doctors say early treatment is effective and can stop further vision loss. This is carried out by means of photodynamic (PDT) or laser therapy.
AMD affects 30 million people worldwide and causes loss of central vision. Of the two types, the less common wet form of AMD causes severe and dramatic vision loss in two to three years. This is due to the presence of abnormal blood vessels that damage the macula – the light-sensitive part of the eye.
“The rapid progression of AMD makes detection at an early stage likely to reduce the high risk of severe vision loss. Patients should also carry out self-monitoring, which, in conjunction with regular eye tests, will help detect the disease as early as possible,” said Dr. Michael Sickenberg of Hospital Ophtalmique Universitaire Jules Gonin in Switzerland.
One simple test is the Amsler Grid. This is a pattern of straight lines in the form of a square with a dot on the center. The patient covers one eye at a time and focuses on the center dot. If the person sees wavy or fuzzy lines, he or she may be suffering from AMD. Visual distortions due to wet AMD may cause straight lines to appear bent. The size and color of objects may also appear differently with each eye.
Those with the wet form of AMD can greatly benefit from a drug that is injected into the patient’s bloodstream and is activated by a non-heat producing laser light. This starts a chemical process that destroys abnormal blood vessels and stops the progression of vision loss.
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