Protecting Your Sight

What you need to know about age-related macular degeneration

(Editor’s note: This content is provided by VSP Vision Care, a Next Avenue sponsor.)

February is Age-Related Macular Degeneration Month and a reminder to spend some time thinking about your eye care. Do you have an eye doctor you love? Or is it hard to even remember your last visit to the eye doctor? Are you approaching retirement and wondering how to continue your vision coverage? Each of these questions is important to answer to ensure you are protecting your vision health. Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) is a disease that can often go unnoticed until the effects are irreversible. Through routine eye appointments, ARMD can be easily detected in the early stages, preserving sight for years to come.

What is Age-Related Macular Degeneration?

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss, affecting more than 10 million Americans — more than cataracts and glaucoma combined. Macular degeneration is caused by the deterioration of the central portion of the retina, the inside back layer of the eye that records the images we see and sends them to the brain. The retina’s central portion, known as the macula, is responsible for focusing central vision in the eye, and it controls our ability to read, drive a car, recognize faces or colors and see objects in fine detail.

How to Diagnose ARMD

There are three stages of ARMD: early, intermediate and late. During the early stage, most people do not experience vision loss, which is why annual eye exams are so important. If diagnosed early, proper treatment can be administered and vision loss can be prevented. Early ARMD is diagnosed by the presence of medium-sized yellow deposits beneath the retina called drusen. The intermediate stage may bring on some vision loss but symptoms can still remain unnoticeable to the naked eye making regular eye exams crucial. A comprehensive eye exam that includes several specific tests is used to diagnose this stage of ARMD. During the late stage, vision loss is noticeable and you should contact your eye doctor immediately.

How to Prevent ARMD

How do you stop ARMD? Prevention is key. Yearly eye exams are the easiest and most effective method for early detection of ARMD. Does your vision insurance cover annual eye exams? If you are nearing retirement, have you started thinking about vision coverage in the future? Or if you are already retired, are you aware that traditional Medicare doesn’t cover routine eye exams and eyeglasses or contact lenses? If you are concerned about how you can protect your eyes for years to come without breaking your budget, there is a simple solution. VSP® Vision Care offers the first nationally available Individual Vision Plan to ensure that no one has to go without quality vision care.

What are the Risk Factors?

While anyone can develop ARMD, your risk becomes significantly higher as you age. ARMD is most commonly found in those age 55 and older, but there are other known risks as well. Other risk factors include:

• People with a family history of ARMD
• Caucasian people
• Smokers

Exploring Treatments

Although there is no known cure for ARMD, there are things you can do to reduce your risk or slow the progression if you have already been diagnosed. Factors such as diet, exercise and other lifestyle choices can all impact your susceptibility to ARMD. Maintaining regular eye exams and talking to your eye doctor also greatly reduce the progression of ARMD. More information is available at www.macular.org/what-macular-degeneration.

Save Your Sight While Saving Costs

In order to avoid the onset of ARMD-induced vision loss, learn more about avoiding the risks and also be proactive, get an annual eye exam to detect and monitor eye health conditions such as ARMD and glaucoma. If you are concerned about costs, VSP Individual Vision Plans offer comprehensive coverage with lowest out-of-pocket costs; savings on frames and lens enhancements such as like no-line bifocals; and the ability to keep the doctor you know and trust. Plans begin as low as $17 per month.

For more information or to enroll, visit GetVSPDirect.com or call 877-988-4746.

By VSP Vision Care

VSP Individual Vision Plans provide affordable individual and family vision plans you can buy on your own.

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