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January is National Eye Care Month -- When was the last time you went to the eye doctor?

Did it seem like your vision started to decline after you hit 40?  This is a toll of aging.  While there are many possible causes, this is the time to become aware of age-related macular degeneration or AMD, a condition where central retinal function worsens, producing poor -and eventually no-central vision.  This makes it difficult to read, drive or even  watch TV.

AMD is the leading cause of blindness in the US-it may affect one in five Americans over age 65.  It is nearly twice as common in women than in men, so new research is targeting the possible role of estrogen in preventing it or decreasing its severity.  The antioxidant lutein may also have a preventive role.  There are very few treatment options for AMD.

What can you do to reduce your risk of AMD?  Have a complete eye exam every 2 years between ages 40 and 65, then yearly.  If you smoke, stop:   smokers are twice as commonly affected than nonsmokers.  High blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease also increase your risk, yet another reason to keep those conditions controlled.  Some doctors recommend lutein supplementation.  Most importantly, protect your eyes from the sun with sunglasses, year round.

Created: 1/18/2001  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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