February is Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) and Low Vision Awareness month. AMD is a common eye disease in the elderly that can gradually destroy central visual acuity. This condition effects 1.75 million people over the age of 50 and due to the aging of the baby boomers that number is expected to reach 3 million by 2020. Those at highest risk for developing AMD include individuals over the age of 50, Caucasians, people with hypertension, individuals who smoke, and those with a family history of AMD. Symptoms include changes in vision such as straight lines appearing wavy, inability to see fine detail, dark spots in the center of your vision and a decreased ability to distinguish colors.
For the majority of those suffering with AMD (90% have a type known as "dry" macular degeneration), there is no cure. However, research has shown that certain vitamin supplements such as Zinc and other antioxidants will slow down the progression of the disease. Of course, life-style changes such as the cessation of smoking and a diet high in green leafy vegetables (more anti-oxidants) are also important ways to prevent this sight threatening disease.