AMD Awareness Month: Am I At Risk For Age-Related Macular Degeneration?

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AMD Awareness Month: Am I At Risk For Age-Related Macular Degeneration?

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye disease that blurs the central vision due to damage to the macula, the back part of the retina. There are two types of AMD: wet and dry. Wet AMD is not particularly common and leads to more rapid progression of damage to the macula, while dry AMD is much more common and develops much slower. Although dry AMD is a slowly progressing eye disease, it tends to not present any symptoms until it is in the late stages and vision is already permanently impaired. There are some risks of AMD that are preventable, but there are some that are not. If you want to know your chances of developing AMD, monitor the risks listed below and see your optometrist annually to screen for eye disease.

Risks For Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Age. As the name suggests, the risk for age-related macular degeneration significantly increases after age 55. AMD is the leading cause of vision loss among older adults even though it doesn’t result in complete blindness as peripheral vision often remains intact.

Genetics. Those who have direct family members with AMD are likely to develop it themselves. There has also been a gene discovered in about one-third of all white people that has been linked with the development of AMD. Eye colour is also linked to AMD, as those with light coloured eyes are more likely to develop AMD than those with dark eyes.

Sex. Two-thirds of people diagnosed with AMD are women, although a part of this may be due to the longer average lifespan of women.

Drusen. These are small yellow deposits of protein and lipids within the eye. Drusen develop under the macula and while hard drusen don’t cause AMD and are normal and expected to appear as you age, soft drusen will cluster together and cause damage to the macula. As soft drusen become larger, they can lead to scarring and bleeding within the cells of the macula, resulting in AMD.

Smoking Habits. Those who smoke a pack or more a day are thought to double their chances of developing AMD and on average smokers are four times more likely than non-smokers to develop AMD. Smoking accelerates the speed at which the macula deteriorates and is also thought to limit blood and oxygen to the eye.

Heart Disease And High Cholesterol. Those who have suffered a stroke or heart attack are much more likely to develop AMD. Those with high blood pressure are also at a higher risk for AMD as it restricts the amount of blood and oxygen that gets to the eye.

UV Rays. We have all experienced UVA and UVB exposure, but certain lifestyles and geographical locations can lead to higher levels of exposure for certain people. UV rays are harmful to the eyes and can cause retinal damage that is structural, thermal, or photochemical, depending on the type of UV rays they have been exposed to and for what length of time. AMD, cataracts, and other eye diseases are suspected to be linked to UV ray exposure.

Get Screened For AMD At Specs In The City In Calgary

Since the early stages, and often the intermediate stages, of dry AMD present no symptoms, the best way to detect AMD is by getting annual eye exams from a trusted Calgary optometrist. At Specs in the City, we offer senior eye exams that screen for age-related conditions such as AMD. Our professional staff will examine your eye health and explain how you can monitor your eye health at home and what signs and symptoms you may need to be aware of. If you would like to book a senior eye exam with one of our fantastic Calgary optometrists, call 1-403-252-2020 or fill out the online contact form.


Q: Is there a cure for AMD?
A: There is not, which is why it is so important to visit your optometrist for early detection of AMD to halt its progression.

Q: What does central vision refer to?
A: Your central vision is what you see directly where your pupils are pointing, as opposed to your peripheral vision, where you can see movement but not always make out shape or detail. Age-related macular degeneration can limit the detail in your central vision and your peripheral vision will remain functional.

Q: Does Alberta Health Care cover eye exams?
A: The Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (AHCIP) provides coverage for annual eye exams if you’re between the ages of 0-18, or over 65. The provincial plan can also be used in times of an emergency should you require an immediate appointment with an eye doctor. Find out more about eye emergencies here.

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