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There is help for those with macular degeneration

By Judith Whitehead

Special to The News

Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, is the leading cause of blindness among older Americans but treatments have advanced considerably over the more 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 of AMD: wet and dry. The dry type affects about 85% of the population; the wet type, which causes more damage to the retina, is seen in about 10-15% of people.

The condition usually affects people over the age of 55 but there is a form called Stargardt disease that affects younger people. It can be hereditary and is more prevalent among smokers. Those of all races can be affected. 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 work will be greatly affected.

Judith Whitehead.

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

Treatment of wet macular degeneration involve injectables directed into the retina by an ophthalmologist in an office setting. This sounds painful but the eye is numbed and it surprisingly causes only a little discomfort.

Drugs including 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. Longer-lasting and more efficient treatment is on the horizon.

The Olmsted Center for Sight and similar organizations can provide free services to help those with AMD function better. Those declared legally blind receive an extra credit on income taxes, as well. Have your eye doctor send in the simple paperwork on your behalf.

Judith Whitehead, of East Amherst, is a certified ophthalmic technician.

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