What is age-related macular degeneration?
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye disease that obscures the sharp, central focus needed for activities like reading and driving. “Age-related” means that it often occurs in the elderly. “Macular” means that it affects the part of your eye called the macula.
AMD is a common condition – it is the leading cause of vision loss in people 50 and older. AMD does not cause complete blindness, but the loss of central vision can make close work difficult, such as looking at faces, driving or cooking, or fixing things around the house.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) occurs very slowly in some people. Even if you have early AMD, you may not experience vision loss for a long time. For other people, AMD develops quickly and can lead to loss of central vision in one or both eyes.
- Macular degeneration
Types of age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
There are two types of Age-related macular degeneration: Dry AMD and Wet AMD.
Dry Age-related macular degeneration (also known as non-exudative AMD) is the most common form, affecting 80-90% of AMD patients.
The accumulation of proteins in the dry AMD macula causes the retinal cells above them to lose their function. These protein deposits are called drusen. Most patients with dry AMD experience painless, gradual vision loss.
Wet Age-related macular degeneration (also known as exudative AMD) is a visually threatening condition and causes 10-20% of AMD cases.
Wet AMD is caused by leaking blood vessels in the retina. These abnormal blood vessels leak fluid or blood at the back of the eye.
Patients with wet AMD generally lose more vision than those with dry AMD. Vision loss caused by wet AMD is often seen by the patient when the condition is very severe.
In some cases, wet AMD suddenly loses vision.
Causes of Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
Although macular degeneration is associated with aging, research suggests that there may also be a genetic component to the disease. The researchers found a strong link between the development of Age-related macular degeneration and the existence of a variant gene.
No one knows what causes dry macular degeneration. But research suggests that it may be related to a combination of hereditary and environmental factors, including smoking and diet.
The condition develops with the age of the eye. Dry macular degeneration affects the macula, the area of the retina that causes clear vision in your direct vision. Over time, the tissue in your macula may thin and break.
Some researchers believe that overexposure to sunlight may also contribute to the development of macular degeneration, although this theory has not been conclusively proven.
Factors that increase the risk for Age-related macular degeneration:
Age: The disease is most common in people over the age of 50.
Family history and genetics: The disease has a hereditary component. Researchers have identified several genes involved in the development of this disease.
Career: Macular degeneration is more common in Caucasians.
Smoking: Smoking cigarettes or smoking regularly significantly increases the risk of a heart attack.
Ob arrears: Research suggests that early or intermediate macular degeneration is more likely to lead to a more severe form of the disease due to the presence of Ese.
Heart disease: If you have diseases that affect your heart and blood vessels, you have a higher risk of macular degeneration.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) study found that AMD results and risk factors were conflicting. The risk factors that are consistently found in studies related to AMD are aging and smoking.
Symptoms of Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
Symptoms of Age-related macular degeneration usually develop gradually and painlessly. They may include:
- Visual distortions in which straight lines appear curved
- Decreased central vision in one or both eyes
- Bright light is required when reading or doing up close
- Difficulties adjusting to low light levels increased when entering a restaurant in low light
- The ambiguity of printed words increased
- Decreased intensity or brightness of colors
- Difficulty recognizing faces
Dry macular degeneration usually affects both eyes. If only one eye is affected, you may not notice any change in your vision because your good eye will replace the weaker eye. And it doesn’t affect the (peripheral) focus towards the condition, so it rarely causes total blindness.
Dry macular degeneration is one of the two types of age-related macular degeneration. It progresses to wet (neovascular) macular degeneration, which is characteristic of leaky blood vessels that grow under the retina. The dry type is more common but generally develops slowly (over the years). The wet type causes a relatively sudden vision change, resulting in severe vision loss.
Treatments for Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
There is no cure for macular degeneration, but some treatments can slow its progression or improve vision.
Treatments for macular degeneration depend on whether the disease is in a powder form in the early stages or a more advanced wet form.
For dry Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), there are no FDA-approved treatments, but nutrients that contain antioxidant vitamins reduce the increased risk of wet AMD, which reduces the vision of dry AMD.
For wet Age-related macular degeneration, the goal of most treatments is to slow or stop abnormal blood vessel growth and prevent fluid leakage from the retina. The first line of treatment consists of injecting the drug (Avastin, Lucentis, or Ilia) directly into the affected eye. Additional laser and medical procedures are also available to treat wet AMD.
For AMD patients with vision loss at any level, applications in low vision devices such as magnifying glasses, telescopes, and digital devices can help increase the efficiency of vision.
Regular eye exams are important to detect the first signs of macular degeneration. The following actions can help reduce your risk of developing dry macular degeneration:
Manage your other medical conditions. For example, if you have heart disease or high blood pressure, take the medications you take and follow your doctor’s instructions for managing the condition.
Do not smoke. Smokers are more likely to develop macular degeneration than non-smokers. Ask your doctor for help quitting smoking.
Maintain a healthy weight and exercise regularly. If you want to lose weight, reduce the number of calories you eat and increase the amount of exercise you do each day.
Choose a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Choose a healthy diet rich in a variety of fruits and vegetables. These foods contain antioxidant vitamins that reduce the risk of developing muscle degeneration.
Include fish in your diet. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish, reduce the risk of macular degeneration. Dried fruits like walnuts also contain omega-3 fatty acids.
When to see a doctor
If you notice sudden or gradual changes in your central vision, see your ophthalmologist to rule out the cause of macular degeneration. Annual and comprehensive eye exams are recommended as preventive care, especially for those 65 and older.
Ophthalmologists can detect the first signs of macular degeneration before patients experience symptoms. Your ophthalmologist will open your eyes to evaluate the retina/macula. Your ophthalmologist can also use imaging equipment to look at retinal changes.
If you are an Age-related macular degeneration patient with vision loss, schedule an exam with an ophthalmologist who specializes in low vision rehabilitation. These eye care professionals will assess your daily needs to improve your vision and performance.
Currently, the best ways to protect your eyes from macular degeneration are to eat a healthy diet, exercise, and wear sunglasses that protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.
As you age, see an ophthalmologist regularly, as comprehensive eye exams play an important role in preventing AMD.
Departments to consult for this condition
- Department of Ophthalmology