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Mon, Sept. 23

Macular degeneration is very common

Nine million Americans have age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and as many as 2 million have "wet" AMD, which is the advanced form of the eye disease that causes rapid vision loss in both eyes.

In people over age 60, AMD is the most common cause of vision loss that impairs the ability to see objects clearly and do such things as read or drive. In "dry" macular degeneration, deposits form near the center of the retina causing vision loss in the center of the field of vision. In "wet" macular degeneration, blood vessels begin to leak under the retina.

The retina is a layer of tissue at the back of the eye that acts like film in a camera. The retina makes an impression of images and then sends it via the optic nerve to the brain.

Clinical research, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH), suggests that "adults eating kale, mustard greens, collard greens, and raw or cooked spinach" or foods such as salmon which are high in Omega-3 fatty acids had lower risk of developing advanced (wet) AMD than those who didn't eat these foods. Research over the next five years will test the effects of lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidant vitamins found in such vegetables against the effects of zinc and beta carotene on vision health.

Adapting to vision loss is a challenge, but many people can find special devices or learn ways to do the things that matter to them. Ask about vision rehabilitation programs and learn as much as you can if an eye exam reveals AMD.

Here are some questions that eye care professionals and low vision specialists can answer:

• What medical/surgical treatments

are available for my condition?

• What can I do to protect or prolong my vision?

• Will my vision loss get worse? How much of my vision will I lose?

• Are there resources to help me in my job?

• How can I continue my normal, routine activities?

Imagine having a hole in the center of a picture and that is the picture of what a person with AMD sees. People with glaucoma, in contrast, have a pinhole vision loss, which allows them to see clearly in the center but results in loss of vision along the outside perimeter of their field of vision.

More than half of Americans over the age of 80 have cataracts. Cataracts cause blurred, cloudy vision throughout the entire field of vision. According to researchers cited by the National Eye Institute (www.nei.nih.gov), cataracts can develop in one or both eyes for many reasons, including wear and tear over time or such things as smoking and diabetes. Eye surgery can correct cataracts that interfere with everyday activities.

Contact the Northern Arizona Vision and Hearing Loss Center at 778-0055 for additional information and resources.

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