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Americans Unaware of Blindness Leading Cause

by Kimberly Johnson
age-related macular degeneration

Americans Unaware of Blindness Leading Cause
age-related macular degenerationWhen evaluating the blindness epidemic in America, experts project age-related macular degeneration (AMD) will affect an estimated 20 million people in the United States by the year 2020. Yet, new national survey results reveal that 3 out of 4 Americans don’t know that AMD is in fact, the leading cause of blindness despite more than 40% of older Americans either have it or knowing someone with this disease for which there is no cure. The top survey choice selected was, incorrectly, glaucoma. Americans Unaware of Blindness Leading Cause
The survey results highlight the need to educate older adults living with or at risk for macular degeneration, as well as their potential caregivers, about how to manage and treat a progressive condition for which there is no cure. Notably, the survey found that more than 1 in 3 (35%) Americans, who know someone with macular generation, assist them frequently. But despite the high prevalence of AMD, the majority of respondents – 66% — report that they are unconfident in their ability to care for their loved one should a family member develop it.
What Do You Need To Know About Age-Related Macular Degeneration?
The signs of macular degeneration are subtle at first. Straight lines, like mailbox posts, may appear bent or crooked, or vision might be slightly blurred. It isn’t until AMD progresses that caregivers may find that their parents need more help paying bills, running errands, and recognizing friends they meet on the street. As central, “straight-ahead” vision deteriorates, an older adult sacrifices their independence and it’s very common for these patients to experience increased stress or depression as a result.[i]
Today, more than 15 million Americans are affected by some form of AMD and approximately 2 million Americans have the advanced (End-stage) form with associated vision loss, which is the leading cause of irreversible vision loss and legal blindness in individuals over the age of 60. Macular degeneration does not cause complete blindness, but at its most aggressive, it can completely block the macula, which is the region of the retina responsible for central, detailed vision. Although peripheral vision remains unaffected by AMD, the developing “blind spot” in central vision is not something people can see around using natural eye moments.
Only a comprehensive dilated eye exam, usually given by an ophthalmologist, can detect AMD. It’s important that caregivers ensure that their loved ones see their eye doctor at least once a year, or more frequently if AMD is progressing, to be assessed for treatment. The more common form of AMD is called dry (atrophic) AMD, which is a slower progressing form of macular degeneration compared to wet (neovascular) AMD, which is caused by abnormal blood vessels that leak fluid or blood and damage the macula. Wet AMD is only diagnosed in 10 percent of all patients.
Learning about macular degeneration and different strategies to identify symptoms, treat and manage the condition benefits both the patient and their caregiver. Those interested in learning more about AMD can visit a new online resource, AMDAffectsMe.com to find out if they or a loved one, is at risk for this debilitating condition.
[i] Bennion, AE, Shaw, RL, Gibson, JM “What do we know about the experience of age related macular degeneration?A systematic review and meta-synthesis of qualitative research” Social Sciences and Medicine 75 (2012) 976e985

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