Lack of Information on Leading Cause of Blindness Could Leave Some Americans in the Dark
Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) currently affects the vision of more than 2 million Americans ages 50 and older. AMD is a progressive disease that diminishes central vision and if left untreated, it can result in severe vision loss and even blindness. Community Health Charities has partnered with member charity, Prevent Blindness America, to raise awareness about AMD/Low Vision.
But despite the severe damage AMD can cause to sight, the public is still relatively unfamiliar with this chronic eye disease. In 2008, AMD Alliance International conducted a survey that found more than half of all respondents had either never heard of AMD, or had heard of it but knew very little about it.
Prevent Blindness America has declared February as Age-related Macular Degeneration Awareness Month to help educate the public about one of the leading causes of blindness in the world. They offer “The AMD Learning Center,” a free educational online resource found at www.preventblindness.org/amd, as well as information through a toll-free phone number.
The good news is that the effects of AMD can be diminished through early detection and treatment by an eye care professional. That is why it is imperative for the public to learn the early warning signs and risk factors for AMD.
Those with AMD may experience the following symptoms:
- Straight lines, such as a flag pole or streetlight, may appear wavy;
- A dark or empty spot may block the center of vision; and
- Written words or type may appear blurry.
According to the National Eye Institute, risk factors for AMD include:
- Smoking – Smoking, and even second-hand smoke, may increase the risk of AMD;
- Obesity - Research studies suggest a link between obesity and the progression of early stage AMD to advanced AMD;
- Race - Caucasians are much more likely to lose their vision from AMD than African-Americans;
- Gender - Of the more than 2 million Americans age 50 and older who have AMD, more than 1.3 million are women; and
- Family History - Those who have immediate family members with AMD are at a higher risk of developing the disease.
“We urge everyone, especially if they are age 40 and older, to get a dilated eye exam as soon as possible,” said Hugh R. Parry, president and CEO of Prevent Blindness America. “Even if you don’t notice any signs of eye trouble today, you may already have an eye disease and not know it. Once detected, eye doctors may be able to slow the progression and help save your vision.”
For free information on AMD and other blinding eye diseases, please visit Prevent Blindness America at www.preventblindness.org or call 1-800-331-2020.