Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is a common eye condition, yet many people don’t know much about it. In this article we aim to help you understand more about AMD, what to look out for and to discuss measures you can take to help prevent it.
What is AMD?
AMD is a leading cause of vision loss in people aged 50 and above.
It affects a small part of your retina at the back of your eye called the macula and this causes changes to your central vision. If you have AMD, when you look straight at something it can become distorted or blurry, and over time, a blank patch may appear in the centre of your vision.
AMD can make doing some everyday tasks difficult such as reading, driving, identifying faces, watching television, cooking and writing.
What to look out for
The early and intermediate stages of AMD usually start without symptoms. Only a comprehensive dilated eye exam can detect AMD.
As your AMD progresses you may start to notice changes to your eyesight. These include:
-Finding it harder to see detail, such as small print. This is usually the first thing you’ll notice
-A small blurred area in the centre of your vision
-Straight lines may look distorted, wavy, or have a small bump in
-Becoming more sensitive to bright light
If you experience any of these symptoms you should make an appointment to have an eye test to measure any changes in your eye sight and look at the back of your eye. This can be performed by your optometrist or ophthalmology specialist. If your optometrist detects changes to your macula, then they may refer you to your GP or you can arrange an appointment with a consultant ophthalmologist.
How quickly does AMD progress?
The development of AMD varies from person to person. It can advance slowly with vision loss not occurring for a long time, or it can progress fast with black spots and a growing blurred area near your centre of vision.
There are three stages of AMD:
Early AMD - diagnosed if you have medium-sized drusen (yellow deposits beneath your retina). Typically, you have no vision loss at this stage.
Intermediate AMD - large drusen and/or pigment changes in the retina. You may have some vision loss.
Late AMD – large drusen and you will experience vision loss due to damage to your macula.
There are two types of AMD:
Dry AMD – you will have a gradual breakdown of the light-sensitive cells in your macula, that send visual information to the brain, and the supporting tissue under your macula. These changes cause slow vision loss.
Wet AMD - abnormal blood vessels will grow below your retina and can leak fluid and blood that may lead to swelling, and causes rapid and serious damage of the macula.
With both dry and wet AMD, you will never lose all of your vision. You will maintain your peripheral vision, which means that you should still be able to get around on your own on a daily basis using this vision.
Can I prevent AMD?
There are some things that contribute to AMD that you can’t control and some risk factors that you can change.
Risk factors you can’t control include: age (prevalence increases with age), gender (it’s more common in women than in men), race (AMD is more common in Caucasians than other races), eye colour (it’s more common in people with blue eyes), AMD in one eye (you’ll have a higher chance of developing AMD in the other eye) and genetics (you’ll have a greater risk of developing AMD if others in your family have It).
You might be able to reduce your risk of AMD or slow its progression by making these healthy choices:
-Maintain normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels
-Eat a healthy balanced diet, rich in green, leafy vegetables and fish
-Keep to a healthy weight
-Minimise your sun exposure and protect your eyes from the sun