Does Macular Degeneration Run In Your Family? Here's What You Need To Know

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If you have a parent or grandparent with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), you're at an increased risk of developing it yourself. This progressive eye disease can lead to severe or complete vision loss if left untreated. So, it pays to be aware of the signs and symptoms of this condition, what you can do to lower your risk, and what to expect if you are diagnosed with AMD. Read on to find out.

What are the signs and symptoms of AMD?

The earliest sign of AMD is typically some mild disturbances in vision. Straight lines may begin to appear curvy, or things at the very center of your visual field may look a bit blurry. You may notice that there are small blind spots in your visual field. Some patients start feeling like they need more light in order to see clearly. As the disease progresses, the "symptoms" tend to move further and further out towards the edge of the visual field.

What can you do to lower your risk of AMD?

You can't change your family history, but luckily there are other risk factors for AMD that you can avoid. If you're a smoker, you absolutely need to quit, since smoking greatly increases your risk of AMD. If you're not a smoker – don't start. Always wear your sunglasses to protect yourself from damaging UV rays. If you're a diabetic, make sure you're following your doctor's dietary guidelines and keeping your blood sugar levels in check.

What is AMD treated?

If you are suffering from symptoms that you think may be due to early-stage AMD, make sure you see your eye doctor as soon as possible. AMD is not curable, but the earlier you begin treatment, the less your vision loss will progress. You cannot re-gain vision that you've already lost. Treatment will be based on your unique case, but often patients are prescribed medications to block the growth of blood vessels in the eyes. Since the growth of abnormal blood vessels under the retina is a hallmark feature of AMD, these medications help slow the progression of the condition.

Laser treatment may also be recommended. A laser will be used to destroy excess blood vessels in the retina. Some patients need to have this treatment repeated every few years as new blood vessels grow. Other cases can be managed with medication after a single laser treatment.

If AMD runs in your family, keep an eye out for the signs and symptoms yourself. Contact an eye doctor, like one at Blue Ridge Ophthalmology, immediately if you think you may be developing AMD.