AMD Symptoms and Risk Factors
As the leading cause of adult blindness in developed countries, age-related macular degeneration is four times more prevalent than glaucomaii and affects one in eight adults over age 60.ii Though common, it often goes undiagnosed until after significant, irreversible vision loss has occurred. Knowing the early symptoms of AMD is the first step toward proactive disease management to prevent the dramatic consequences of untreated disease.
Some symptoms of macular degeneration are detected early, yet not connected to the disease until after the condition is fairly advanced. Other symptoms seem more obtrusive and are likely to trigger a visit to an eye care professional:
- Difficulty seeing at night
- Difficulty reading in dim light
- Worsened visual acuity
- Distorted vision
- Central vision loss
Also known as “night blindness,” impaired dark adaptation is the earliest symptom of AMD.ii Physical changes that occur in the early development of AMD compromise the eye’s ability to adjust to darkness. This can make it difficult to drive at night, read in dim light, or adjust to dark places, like an unlit movie theater. More noticeable visual deficits become evident as the disease progresses, such as worsened visual acuity, distorted vision, and central vision loss.
AMD Risk Factors
There are also many risk factors associated with the development of AMD. Most risk factors can’t be modified, though others can be managed to some extent.
Non-modifiable Risk Factors:
- Age 50 or older
- Family history of AMD
- Caucasian (white)
Age is the biggest risk factor for AMD. Family history, ethnicity, and gender can play a significant role as well. According to the National Eye Institute, AMD is more prevalent among white Americans as compared to other races. Perhaps partly due to life expectancy discrepancies, 65 percent of AMD cases in the U.S. were women in 2010.
Modifiable Risk Factors:
- High cholesterol
- Cardiovascular disease
- Chronic sunlight exposure
The biggest modifiable risk factor for AMD is smoking. Current smokers carry a 2.5 to 4.8 times higher risk than non-smokers for developing AMD. Sadly, one study showed 90% of patients with AMD were not advised to stop smoking and less than 50% of smokers know smoking may contribute to blindness.ii
Based on epidemiological studies, several systemic conditions carry an increased risk of developing AMD. Keeping cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, and obesity in check may help preserve the vision in these patients, as well as improve their quality of life.ii
The AdaptDx is especially useful for optometrists and general ophthalmologists who see many patients with “normal” clinical exams, since it can help you identify subclinical AMD up to three years before clinical onset. With the AdaptDx, you will be in the front line in detecting these patients and will be able to carefully monitor and treat those with subclinical AMD.