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February: An Eye Priority Month

eye chartMost of us know that February is American Heart Month and of course a time for celebrating with our special valentines. But did you know that February is also National AMD/Low Vision Awareness Month. AMD or Age-Related Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss affecting over 15 million adults over the age of 50.

AMD affects central vision and is the most common cause of visual impairment and irreversible blindness among older Americans. It causes damage to the macula, a small spot near the center of the retina and the part of the eye needed for sharp, central vision, which lets us see objects that are straight ahead. The dry form reduces vision, but does not usually cause blindness. Wet AMD is characterized by blood vessels that grow under the retina in the back of the eye, leaking blood and fluid. Dry AMD can progress to wet AMD in some patients.

Risk factors include:
Smoking– Research shows that smoking doubles the risk of AMD.
Family history– People with a family history of AMD are at higher risk.
Race– AMD is more common among Caucasians than among African-Americans or Hispanics/Latinos.
Obesity– The chance that early or intermediate macular degeneration will progress to the more severe form of the disease is increased by being severely overweight.
Unhealthy diet– A poor diet that includes few fruits and vegetables may increase the risk of macular degeneration.
Cardiovascular disease– If you have had diseases that affected your heart and blood vessels (cardiovascular disease), you may be at higher risk of macular degeneration.
High cholesterol– High cholesterol may be associated with a higher risk of macular degeneration.

Does lifestyle make a difference?
You might be able to reduce your risk of AMD or slow its progression by making these healthy choices:
• Avoid smoking
• Exercise regularly
• Maintain normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels
• Eat a healthy diet rich in green, leafy vegetables and fish
For more on diet and vision go to

Visit Prevent Blindness® at or the National Eye Institute at for more information on maintaining good eye health.