Are you at risk for macular degeneration? Learn about the leading cause of blindness in adults 55 and older.

Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, is the leading cause of blindness in people 55 and older, with baby boomers becoming more at risk as they get older. Researchers believe that both genetics and lifestyle play a role in AMDs development, which can cause rapid sight loss in its advanced form.

Are there actions one can take to prevent AMD? The most important change is to quit smoking. People should also protect their eyes in bright sunlight, exercise regularly and maintain a healthy diet. Foods high in healthy omega-3 fatty acids, such as oily fish like salmon and tuna, as well as nuts, fruits and vegetables, may also help prevent AMD. While these actions are helpful, nothing can guaranteetotal protection.

What warning signs should people be aware of? Anyone experiencing blurry central vision, blind spots or increased difficulty with detail-oriented tasks like reading or sewing should have their eyes checked.People suffering from early-stage, or dry, AMD may not experience changes in their vision, which is why annual visits to an eye doctor are so important for early detection. A classic warning sign for more advanced AMD is when straight lines appear wavy.

Is treatment available for AMD? There are a few FDA-approved injection treatments on the market for wet AMD, which is an advanced form of the condition that accounts for about 10 percent of all cases. These therapies can help slow or even reverse some vision loss. And, there are clinical trials under way for other treatment approaches such as gene therapy and oral medications that are less invasive and perhaps more effective.

Dr. Stephen Rose, Ph.D., is chief research officer of the Foundation Fighting Blindness, the largest nonprofit dedicated to funding research for retinal diseases including AMD.