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Take steps to prevent vision loss from macular degeneration

By Judith Whitehead – Contributing Writer

Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness among older Americans but treatments have advanced considerably in recent years for improving and salvaging vision.

AMD is a disease that affects the central vision and can cause legal blindness in some people. There are two types: wet and dry.

The dry type affects about 85 percent of the population.

Wet AMD, which causes more damage to the retina, strikes about 10 to 15 percent of people with the condition.

AMD usually affects people over age 55, but there is a form called Stargardt disease that affects younger people. It can be hereditary and is more prevalent among smokers. Those from all races and backgrounds can get the disease.

Vitamins can be used to help treat most cases of macular degeneration, though those with the "wet" kind need injectable medication, Judith Whitehead says.

Wearing specs with UV protection can help prevent macular damage, as well as not smoking.

People with macular degeneration will not go totally blind and will always have their peripheral vision intact – but the useful part of vision used for reading and fine detail work will be greatly affected.

Antioxidant vitamins may be taken for prevention of the dry type but the vitamins that contain Leutine must not be taken if you are a smoker, as this could cause more damage.

Treatment of wet macular degeneration involves injectables that are given by an ophthalmologist in office and directed into the retina. This sounds painful, but the eye is numbed locally and surprisingly causes only a little discomfort.

Drugs such as Avastin, Eylea, Jetrea, and Iluvean are given to patients with retinal leaking and swelling caused by this disease. Others also are coming on the market. Research is advancing quickly in this area and hopes for longer lasting and more efficient treatment is on the horizon.

Organizations such as the Olmsted Center for Sight in Western New York and legally blind associations offer free services available to those who need help functioning on their own.

If you are declared legally blind, there is an extra credit given to you on your income tax, as well. Have your eye doctor send in the simple paperwork on your behalf.

February is Macular Degeneration Awareness Month; Judith Whitehead, of East Amherst, is a certified ophthalmic technician.

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