Age-Related Macular Degeneration
What is Age-Related Macular Degeneration?
When you read do words on the page appear blurry? Is there a dark or empty area in the center of your vision? Do straight lines appear crooked? If you answered yes to any of these questions you may have age-related macular degeneration.
Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, causes deterioration of the retina, the layer of light-sensitive tissue lining the back of the eye. Associated with aging, AMD affects the central vision needed for sharp vision and common tasks like driving and reading. Peripheral (side) vision is usually not affected. People often become aware of the problem when both eyes are affected but vision loss may occur in only one eye while vision in the other eye is unaffected.
There are two types of AMD – dry macular degeneration and wet macular degeneration.
Dry macular degeneration
About 90 percent of AMD cases are diagnosed as dry macular degeneration. As the retina deteriorates a very small area of the retina called the macula, responsible for central and color vision, gradually loses function. In the beginning this can cause slightly blurred vision but can progress until central vision is completely lost. The dry form of AMD can sometimes progress and develop into the more severe form of the disease called wet macular degeneration.
Wet macular degeneration
About 10 percent of patients with macular degeneration are diagnosed as this more severe form of the disease. Wet macular degeneration occurs when abnormal blood vessels form under the retina causing fluid or blood to leak leading to blurred or distorted vision. Scarring may occur, which could result in severe and permanent loss of central vision. Fortunately, with early detection and current methods of treatment, most severe vision loss can be prevented.
Who is at Risk For AMD?
Adults over age 60 are most at risk for AMD, but the disease can appear as early as age 40. AMD is the leading cause of impaired reading or detailed vision loss for adults over age 50 and the most common cause of severe vision loss in adults age 65 and older. Studies have also shown that women tend to be more affected with AMD than men.
Symptoms of AMD
Although AMD does not result in total blindness, as peripheral vision is not affected, early detection of macular degeneration may prevent further vision loss since treatment is more effective when started early. If you notice any of the following symptoms of AMD, consult your eye care provider immediately.
- Blurry or distorted central vision
- Difficulty reading, driving or recognizing faces
- Distortion of the center of a scene
- Dark or empty area in the center of vision
- Dimming of color vision
Treating Macular Degeneration
Unfortunately, there is no cure for age-related macular degeneration. Particular combinations of vitamins and antioxidants may slow the progress in its less advanced stages. Treatment of wet AMD has advanced significantly with the introduction of anti-vascular endothelial cell growth factor drugs (VEGF) drugs. This treatment used alone or in combination with photodynamic therapy can be used to slow the progression of wet AMD. When administered at an early stage this treatment will prevent further vision loss and in the majority of patients may improve vision. Our retinal specialist will work with you to determine the best treatment for your particular case.
Additionally, people who suffer from AMD can compensate for some of their vision loss by using reading glasses, magnifying glasses and direct light when reading or doing close-up work.