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Health Watch: Age Related Macular Degeneration is highlighted for Low Vision Awareness Month

Published: Feb. 24, 2021 at 4:11 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - There are certain types of vision loss that can’t be simply solved with a pair of lenses.

February is the National Eye Institute’s Low Vision Awareness Month, a campaign designed to educate the nation about what life is like for those living with low vision conditions such as age-related macular degeneration. According to local optometrist Dr. Ashley Ellis, this condition can result in a variety of impairments like distortion in vision, blurry vision, spots in your vision, and even central vision loss.

“Macular degeneration is damage to the central retina of the back of the eye. The retina is the film on the back of the eye that helps us see. Macular degeneration occurs typically in older patients, and so there is basically damage to the center of the vision,” said Dr. Ellis.

This condition, also known as AMD, is most common in senior patients. Among 60 year olds it occurred in a range of 0.5%-1% of people, for patients in their 70s it ranges from 1-3%, and in 80 year olds it can can occur in as many as 11% of patients according to the National eye institute.

“When we have damage to the retina, we can’t put glasses on just to fix the vision, and so that’s where a lot of people think that ‘Oh, I can just get glasses.’ Unfortunately with macular degeneration there’s actual physical damage to the structure of the eye that causes the low vision,” said Dr. Ellis.

According to Dr. Ellis, maintaining quality general health is the best method of reducing the risks of developing AMD. Recommendations include maintaining a healthy nutrient rich diet, frequent exercise, and avoiding nicotine products. Annual eye exams are also strongly recommended, as there are measures that can be taken if the condition is caught early.

“Sometimes we can recommend supplements at really early stages, and then if it does turn into what’s called wet macular degeneration - which is where we can start to have bleeding in the back of the eyes - we can start to do injections really early on, and that can prevent severe vision loss,” said Dr. Ellis.

For more information on Low Vision Awareness Month visit the National Eye Institute website here.

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