Age Related Macular Degeneration: Facts, Symptoms, & Treatment

Feb 17, 2020

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Age Related Macular Degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of vision loss in adults age 50 and older. AMD happens when the macula, the central part of your retina, slowly begins to break down. This causes blurred or reduced vision in your direct line of sight.

While the disease usually progresses gradually, it can lead to serious vision impairment. However, there are things you can do to help prevent AMD and keep it from growing worse. Review the following sections to learn more about age-related macular degeneration.

AMD Signs and Symptoms

If you’ve noticed slightly blurry vision or trouble reading in low light levels, you may be experiencing the early symptoms of AMD. The condition may affect one or both eyes, but no pain is associated with age-related macular degeneration.

Additional symptoms of AMD may include:

  • Straight lines appearing bent.
  • A blurred or darkened spot in the center of your field of vision.
  • Difficult transition to lower light levels, such as when entering a dimly-lit room.
  • Vision issues while driving.
  • Struggling to recognize faces from a distance.
  • Difficulty reading fine print or doing close work.
  • Colors appearing faded or less intense.

What causes AMD?

Research indicates that AMD may be caused by a combination of hereditary and environmental factors. As with other age-related medical conditions, AMD becomes more common as you get older. It happens when light-sensitive cells in the macula thin out and eventually die. The macula is the small central portion of your retina—the area in the back of the eye that senses light.

AMD appears more often in Caucasians than any other race, but people of all racial backgrounds can be affected. Females are more likely than males to experience macular degeneration.

How to Lower Your Risk of AMD

While you cannot change your age, genetics or race, there are things you can do to help decrease your risk of developing AMD. To improve your eye health:

  • Stop smoking. Smoking has been shown to significantly increase the risk of getting AMD. Being exposed to second-hand smoke also increases this risk.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity may increase the chance of early AMD progressing to a more serious form of the disease.
  • Address cardiovascular conditions. People who have diseases that affect the heart and blood vessels may be at higher risk of AMD. Treating high blood pressure, coronary artery disease and related conditions may reduce your chance of developing AMD.
  • Supplement your diet. According to an age-related eye disease study conducted by the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health, certain dietary supplements can guard against vision loss. Vitamins C and E, copper, zinc, lutein and zeaxanthin encourage optimal eye health. In addition, the omega-3 fatty acids found in certain fish and nuts may reduce your risk of AMD.

After the age of 45, you should get a complete eye exam every two to four years. It is important to visit Allied Eye anytime you notice changes in your vision.

What is the difference between Dry AMD and Wet AMD?

Dry AMD is the most common type of the disease. It progresses slowly over the years and usually affects both eyes. Symptoms are less noticeable if only one eye is affected because the healthy eye usually compensates for the weak eye. Dry AMD rarely causes total blindness because it does not change your peripheral vision.

Dry AMD can progress to wet AMD. The wet form represents 10 to 15 percent of the cases of macular degeneration and may also be called neovascular or exudative AMD. It is the result of blood vessels leaking under the retina and can cause a sudden, serious loss of vision. Left untreated, these bleeding areas can form a scar that results in permanent central vision loss.

AMD Treatment Options

While AMD used to be considered an incurable condition, medical advances have made some treatment options possible. Early detection is key to slowing down, halting or even improving vision loss from AMD. Treatment may include laser surgery or having medication injected into the eye to block leaking blood vessels. In addition, certain supplements and the use of special vision enhancing devices can improve the quality of life with AMD.

If you’ve already been diagnosed with AMD, it is important to self-monitor your vision daily using an Amsler grid. Request an appointment with Dr. Matzkin as soon as possible after noticing any vision changes.