Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, is the most common cause of vision loss for individuals over the age of 50. Read on to learn more about AMD, and how it is diagnosed and treated.
What is Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)?
AMD is a degenerative condition that affects the center of your field of vision, resulting in blurriness and difficulty seeing during everyday tasks.
People who experience AMD still retain their peripheral (or side) vision. What AMD impacts is their ability to see things in the center of their field of vision. Fine details are lost, and the area of vision impairment may continue to increase with age, and makes everyday tasks like reading, watching TV, cooking, and driving very difficult.
Your risk of developing AMD increases after 60, especially if you:
- have a family history of AMD
- are overweight
- have hypertension
- are caucasian
- are female
Types of AMD
There are two types of AMD. The most common type is called Dry AMD, which occurs when parts of the macula in the eye begin to thin with age, and tiny clumps of a protein called drusen begin to develop.
The second type is called Wet AMD and is more serious but less common. Wet AMD occurs when blood vessels grow under the retina. If these vessels leak, it can cause the macula to scar, blurring your vision.
Diagnosing AMD starts with an eye exam, where an ophthalmologist will administer several tests designed to help better assess and understand what is happening inside of your eye.
Your ophthalmologist may have you look at a chart called an Amsler grid that will help identify blurry, blank, or other distorted spots in your field of vision. Another test that an ophthalmologist will perform starts off with applying dilating eye drops to better look through your pupil for a better peek at what’s happening inside of your eye.
You may also have fluorescein angiography, which involves injecting a dye into your bloodstream that a special camera can detect. Additionally, your doctor may take even more specialized images of your eye, using optical coherence tomography and optical coherence tomography angiography, which is similar to fluorescein angiography (but dye-free).
While there is currently no treatment for those suffering from dry AMD, there are nutritional and lifestyle changes that have been shown to help alleviate some of the symptoms and improve your ability to function better with the eyesight you do have. Some options include taking nutritional supplements and eating certain foods. For loss of vision, help in the form of magnifiers and apps can help you see certain things more clearly.
Wet AMD treatments can include surgery, injections, photodynamic therapy, and medications that can reduce the number of abnormal blood vessels in your eye, causing your vision to become impaired.
If you are experiencing any disturbance in your vision, the sooner you get in to see your ophthalmologist, the better! Early detection is very important when it comes to diagnosis, treatment, or management of AMD symptoms and to rule out any other potentially more serious conditions that may be causing your vision loss.
What can I do?
Several things help support our eye health and potentially prevent or delay common age-related eye issues. Eating a healthy diet that includes plenty of dark leafy greens, yellow fruits and veggies, fish, and nutrients is an important one. You should also quit smoking. Staying active can also help.
Also, making it a habit to get regular eye exams will help you and your doctor keep on top of any changes and extend the healthy lifespan of your eyesight.
If you have any concerns about your vision, make an appointment today!