Macular degeneration, commonly referred to as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), is the single largest cause of sight loss in the developed world and affects more than 10 million Americans. It usually affects people over the age of 60, but has been known to affect those who are younger. It is a painless condition that usually affects both eyes with the loss being experienced in the central vision. It does not affect the peripheral vision, meaning that it does not cause total blindness.
The macula is the most sensitive part of the retina and is responsible for our central vision and what allows us to see fine details with clarity.
Wet AMD is where abnormal blood vessels grow into the macula, leaking blood or fluid which causes scarring, and can lead to rapid loss of central vision. Wet AMD can develop suddenly, and referral to a specialist is essential for treatment.
Dry AMD is the most common form of age-related macular degeneration and is a gradual deterioration of the retina as the cells die off over time. Up to 15% of people with dry AMD go on to develop wet AMD, so any sudden changes in your vision should be followed up with your optometrist as soon as possible.
Macular degeneration affects each person differently, however, as the cells deteriorate you will start to see an increasing range of symptoms, including:
Distortion or bends in what should be straight lines
Dark spots in your central vision
Difficulty adapting from dark to light environments
Objects may appear to change shape, size or color, or may move or disappear
There is no clear reason as to what triggers the process that causes macular degeneration. Experts suggest that the best thing you can do to minimize any potential risk is to ensure that you live a healthy, active lifestyle. You can reduce your risk by:
Eating a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables
Moderating your alcohol consumption
Maintaining a healthy weight
Getting regular exercise
Eating leafy, green vegetables such as spinach and/or kale can benefit the macular area.
In the case of dry AMD, there is no current treatment, although multivitamins may be recommended based on studies conducted by the National Eye Institute.
Wet AMD can be treated with drugs that are injected into the eye to absorb the fluid and help prevent additional blood vessels from developing and stop your vision from deteriorating further. Occasionally, laser therapy is suggested as a possible treatment for destroying abnormal blood vessels in wet AMD.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding macular degeneration, we highly recommend that you speak with your optometrist who will be happy to assist you.