We hear a lot about how boomers seek eternal youth and are quick to buy everything from fashions to cosmetic surgery to "invisible" products that stave off signs of aging. Ironically, at the same time, many accept certain conditions as inevitable signs of aging that they can't do something about. This includes hearing, arthritis, and now, it seems, age-related macular degeneration. And yet ALL of these conditions can be treated and their progression slowed before they get worse.
I was surprised by some information I received recently from a colleague (Edelman represents the National Eye Institute) alerting me to a recent study about AMD, age-related macular degeneration.
AMD occurs when the macula – the central portion of the retina that is important for reading and color vision – becomes damaged. There are two forms of AMD – wet and dry. All cases begin as the dry form, but 10 to 15 percent progress to the more serious wet form, which can result in sudden and severe central vision loss. Without treatment, central vision can be lost over time, leaving only peripheral, or side vision.
Apparently, two-thirds of Americans aged 55 or older have had an eye exam within the last year, yet 80 percent do not know that age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of vision loss in people over 60.
According to a survey conducted by Opinion Research Corporation, this serious, progressive eye disease has several easy-to-recognize symptoms, and yet only half of survey respondents could identify a single one. What's more, only 46 percent could identify risk factors for AMD.
But here's the real shocker - of the 24 percent who are familiar with AMD, fewer than a third knew that AMD was treatable. The National Eye Institute estimates that approximately 15 million people in the United States have AMD, and more than 1.7 million Americans have the advanced form of the disease, known as wet AMD, which is more than cases of glaucoma and cataracts combined.
About 200,000 new cases of wet AMD are diagnosed each year in North America. As a result of the aging baby boomer population, the National Eye Institute estimates that the prevalence of advanced AMD will grow to nearly 3 million by the end of the next decade.
So I was delighted when I learned about Eye On AMD, a web site that teaches visitors about the disease. I spent quite a bit of time on the site and found it incredibly informative and beautifully designed. You can even virtually walk through a house and learn ways to help those with AMD function better on a daily basis. (And for those of you who don't care that much about this topic, but you do want to see a great example of how to design an easy-to-read site, go here.)
I picked up some great tips I'll use with my parents, both of whom have macular degeneration. Since they were in their 80's when they were diagnosed, it never really occured to me that it was anything but an "old person's" condition. Now that I know better, I feel obligated to let my fellow boomers in on this news.
Check out the resources link too - you'll find other ways to learn more about the disease and how it can be treated.
Are you a boomer with AMD? What has been your experience? Let us know if you're seeking treatment and how it's working!