You can tell by the abnormally high number of jewelry ads on TV that Valentine’s Day is near. But what you’ve probably heard less about is that February also marks National AMD Awareness Month. It’s a time set aside by the American Academy of Ophthalmology to educate Americans about the impact of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and ways to prevent AMD from robbing the people you care about of being able to see the things they love.
Think for a moment about what’s closest to your heart. Maybe the faces of those who are dear to you, the scenery from a favorite vacation spot or the wagging tail of an adored pet.
Now, imagine getting older and having to rely solely on memories of those things due to vision loss caused by AMD. Unfortunately, AMD is a leading cause of vision loss among people 50 and older, affecting more than 10 million Americans, according to the American Macular Degeneration Foundation (AMDF). The AMDF is a non-profit that works to prevent, treat and cure of macular degeneration, and raises awareness of the condition on their site, macular.org . (1)
What AMD “looks” like
As AMD advances, patients tend to notice a blurred area near the center of their vision. In time, the blurred area can increase, or patients can experience blank spots in their central vision. Some objects also might appear less bright. Though AMD doesn’t cause total blindness, the impaired vision can make it difficult to perform basic daily tasks such as driving, reading, writing, doing close-up work or even recognizing faces. (2)
There is no cure for AMD, but here are 5 ways that eye health experts say you can reduce the risk of developing AMD so you’ll always be able to see the things you cherish:
1. Get an annual eye exam
The early and intermediate stages of AMD usually do not exhibit symptoms, so the only way to detect AMD is through a comprehensive dilated eye exam. According to the National Eye Institute, the Federal government’s lead agency for vision research, finding AMD earlier means more time and opportunity to adopt healthy lifestyle habits that might slow the disease. (2)
2. Protect your eyes from the sun
According to the AMDF, ultraviolet light and blue light have been linked as possible contributors to both AMD and cataracts, so quality eyeglass and sunglass lenses—labeled as UV 400—are recommended for keeping eyes safe from harm. (3) Cheap sunglasses from the convenience store aren’t enough. Look for eyewear from a reputable source, with lenses and frames designed to suit your lifestyle and activities.
3. Quit smoking
In its “5 tips to protect against macular degeneration” the American Academy of Opthalmology (AAO) says smoking actually doubles the risk of developing AMD. Not only that, but the AAO says smoking can hasten the disease’s progression. (4)
4. Stay active
The AAO also cites research that regular exercise is as good for eyes as it is for muscles including 1 study showing that exercising 3 times a week cuts by 70% the risk of developing wet AMD—the worst form of the condition. (4)
5. Eat healthfully
Diets chock full of omega-3 fatty acids, like those found in fish, have been linked to a lower risk of AMD, according to the AAO (4). Researchers also recommend eating fresh fruits and dark green, leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale. Additionally, Harvard Medical School suggests specific dietary supplements containing combinations of antioxidant vitamins and minerals. (5)
What employers can do
As an employer that cares about your workforce, you can help by sharing information about AMD with employees. Although AMD generally is associated with aging, many Millennials, GenY and GenX workers are facing the aging of their parents and grandparents, which can add to stress and caregiving duties for younger generations. Also, researchers are looking at whether high energy blue light rays coming from digital devices can contribute to long term retinal damage and diseases like AMD. That means everyone, not just those over 50, can benefit from this article on the signs and symptoms of AMD.
And speaking of the number 50, I’m excited to share that EyeMed is celebrating its 50 millionth member in 2018! We’re proud that more people than ever have access to vision benefits that enable them to see life to the fullest, so they’ll never have to just imagine the things they love the most.
Benefit buyers and brokers can learn more about group vision benefits through EyeMed, or request that an EyeMed rep reach out by visiting starthere.eyemed.com.
1. American Macular Degeneration Foundation
2. National Eye Institute, “Facts About Age-Related Macular Degeneration,” 2015
3. Macular.org, “Ultra-violet and Blue Light Aggravate Macular Degeneration”
4. American Academy of Ophthalmology, “5 Tips To Protect Against Macular Degeneration,” 2016
5. Harvard Health Publishing, “5 Ways to Protect Your Eyes from AMD”