Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of vision loss in people aged 55 years or older. Older people develop macular degeneration as part of the body’s natural aging process. There are different kinds of macular problems, but the most common is age-related macular degeneration.
With AMD, you lose your central vision, which is needed to see objects clearly and for performing many activities such as reading, driving or recognizing faces. Your peripheral (side) vision still will be normal. Imagine looking at an image of someone’s face; the face is darkly blurred, but you can see what is around it.
AMD creates a problem with the retina, which is located at the back of the eye and enables us to see clearly. The macula is the central portion of the retina. AMD damages the macula in a way that blurs central vision. Learning about AMD can be confusing because there are two types of AMD:
Dry AMD: This form is the most common. About 80% of people who have AMD have the dry form. Dry AMD is caused by age-related deterioration of the light-sensitive cells in the macula. Tiny clumps of protein (called drusen) grow, and you slowly lose central vision. Sometimes Dry AMD advances to Wet AMD, and sometimes it does not.
Wet AMD: This form is less common but more serious because new, abnormal blood vessels grow under the retina. These vessels may leak blood or other fluids, causing scarring of the macula. You lose vision faster with wet AMD than with dry AMD.
What are the symptoms of AMD?
• Gradual or sudden change in quality of your vision
• Loss of central vision
• Distorted vision
• Blank or blurry spot in central vision
• Inability to recognize colors or people’s faces
Many people don’t realize they have AMD until their vision is very blurry. This is why it is important to have regular visits to a qualified eye doctor, who can recognize early signs of AMD before you notice any vision problems.
What are the risk factors for AMD?
• Age is biggest risk factor. AMD is more common in people over 55 years in age.
• Genetics or family history of AMD increases your chances of developing this condition.
• AMD occurs more often in Caucasian (white) people.
• Smoking doubles the risk of developing AMD.
How is AMD diagnosed and treated?
The eye doctor will use instruments and tests such as Ophthalmoscopy, Fluorescein Angiography and Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) to diagnose AMD.
There is no single proven effective treatment for Dry AMD. However, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Lutein, Zeaxanthin, Zinc oxide and Copper supplement have been shown to be beneficial in reducing the risk of developing Dry AMD.
For Wet AMD, use of anti-VEGF treatment, thermal laser treatment or photodynamic therapy (PDT) appear to be effective. These promising treatments are relatively new, and are being advanced and studied in clinical settings.