FAQS about ARMD
One of my parents/grandparents has macular degeneration, does that mean I am going to get it?
No, but it does put you in a higher risk category. If a close relative has ARMD than you must take extra precautions to ensure that you are not exposing yourself to other risk factors.
What are some other risk factors besides family history?
1. UV exposure. If you are 40 and spent the first 39 years of your life without wearing sunglasses outdoors, start now. If you are a parent and can get your child, no matter how young, to wear sunglasses outside, please do so. Think of them as sunscreen for your eyes.
* Please make sure your lenses have a good quality UV coat. Most will say 100% UVA / UVB protection. A $5 pair off the rack at the drug store may actually do more harm than good.
2. Smoking. Yes, this is yet another reason to stop smoking. Studies have indicated that smoking makes an individual 3 times more likely to develop ARMD and that the onset can be about 10 years sooner in individuals that smoke.
3. Diet. Yes, yet another good reason to have a healthy diet. While the vitamin therapy from the AREDS study has not shown to have any preventative effects, a healthy diet with plenty of green leafy veggies has been shown to have some beneficial effects.
So should I take a supplement designed for macular degeneration patients if I don't have ARMD?
No, but you should take a multivitamin. A multivitamin, along with a healthy diet can give you plenty of the vitamins and minerals you need to lead a healthy lifestyle.
I have dry ARMD, what is the likelihood that it will convert to the wet form?
Only about 10% of patients with ARMD have the wet form.
What changes in my vision should I look out for?
Many of the early symptoms of ARMD can be attributed to a few different diagnosis. Difficulty seeing fine detail, difficulty with color perception, or just a reduction in overall vision can be early signs of ARMD, BUT they can also be signs of cataracts or something as simple as a prescription change. One of the more telling signs that something may be going on at the macula is the appearance of straight lines looking wavy, but again, this is not necessarily diagnostic of ARMD. The best rule of thumb is to play it safe...if you feel like your vision is changing for the worse, schedule an appointment as soon as possible.
What if Dr. Bittel sees early signs of ARMD during my exam?
There are very early warning signs that we look for at the back of the eye. If these are detected, it does not necessarily mean that you will develop ARMD, but we will urge you to control the risk factors that are controllable. If dry ARMD is detected, we will likely start you on the AREDS vitamins, and depending on the level of vision loss at the time may refer you to see a retina specialist for further evaluation.
What are my options if I do ultimately suffer vision loss from ARMD?
If the vision loss is minor, you will likely be able to function very well with normal glasses. We might slightly increase the magnification in your reading prescription to help with smaller details. Lighting will also make a HUGE difference for patients with any level of vision loss. The closer you can get the light source to the reading material, the more beneficial the lighting will be (also look for full-spectrum light bulbs, these most closely imitate natural sunlight).
Patients with a moderate degree of vision loss will likely benefit from more magnification in their reading prescription or even a separate pair of high magnification reading glasses.
If you or someone you know suffer from severe vision impairment from ARMD (or any other ocular disease) please seek assistance from low vision centers such as the Braille Institute or the Southern California College of Optometry Low Vision department. There are a number of low vision aides to help with distance and near vision, computer programs, and even government programs that provide books on tape and large button telephones.