Thursday, March 09, 2006

AMD Description 1

Chapter One
A Description of Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

Her name is Anna and her story is sad but familiar to those of us who work as eye doctors. She’s sixty-five and has just retired. She has watched her diet, even eaten those dry, low-fat bran muffins with high fiber every morning. Her blood pressure is good, her blood lipids are way down, and she’s in terrific shape. No wonder, with the yoga and step aerobic classes and all of that walking. She uses sunscreen every day. She doesn’t smoke. She drinks a few glasses of wine a week but now they say that’s good for you. Her PAP smears and mammograms have been A-okay. She’s in the clear. Now that she’s retired it’s time for her to enjoy life, to do whatever she wants for the next twenty years – travel, garden, baby-sit for her grand-children and watch them grow-up, pass her hard-earned knowledge on to them.

Then she notices that her vision is a little blurry and the straight edge of the window frame in her kitchen looks like it’s bent in the middle. This is the first sign of a leak. Then the dam breaks and her vision gets worse fast. The eye doctor tells her she has the wet form of macular degeneration and that her vision is likely to get worse. She has signs of macular degeneration in the other eye too. She asks how long her vision will last, says that she loves books and needs to be able to drive to keep her independence. Her doctor shakes his head and tells her he’ll do what he can.

Unfortunately, Anna’s case is not unique. The western world is facing an epidemic of blindness caused by age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Unless we do something about it, this epidemic will worsen as our population lives longer. The risk of AMD skyrockets with advancing age. Seven percent of white Americans age sixty-five to seventy already have retinal changes that are known to lead to advanced AMD. Fifteen percent of white Americans have the disease by the age of seventy-five, and thirty percent have it by age


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