Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common cause of vision loss for people over the age of 50. It occurs when the delicate cells which allow us to see straight ahead become damaged and stop working.
There are two types of AMD: the ‘dry’ form and the more severe ‘wet’ form. Dry AMD is more common, develops gradually over time and usually causes no vision loss or very mild vision loss. The wet form is rarer but the risk of sight loss is much greater. Because macular degeneration is an age-related process it usually involves both eyes, although they may not be affected at the same time.
Every time our optician examines your eyes they routinely screen for macular degeneration. Should we detect any such change in your eyes we’ll give you our professional advice regarding your eye health. Retinal photography enables us to detect macular changes at a much earlier stage.
What are the symptoms?
The main symptom is a deterioration of your central vision. AMD is not painful and it never leads to total blindness because it is only the central vision that is affected. This means that most people with AMD will have enough side (or peripheral) vision to get around and keep their independence.
In the early stages of AMD, your central vision may be blurred or distorted and things may look an unusual size or shape. This may happen quickly or develop over several months, although if only one of your eyes is affected you may not even notice any vision loss. If you have AMD you may become sensitive to light or find it harder to distinguish colours.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, make an appointment to see us immediately!
Am I at risk of developing AMD?
You are more at risk if you answer ‘Yes’ to any of these questions:
- Do you smoke?
- Do you eat a high-fat diet with very little fresh fruit and veg?
- Do you regularly enjoy the outdoors (gardening, walking, holidays…) without wearing sunglasses?
Your risk is also higher with advancing age and if any close relatives have AMD. More women than men develop AMD, as do those with light skin or eye colour.
How can we help?
Early detection is essential to treating AMD. We recommend regular retinal photography to all of our patients as this allows us to digitally compare the macula from one appointment to the next, noting any changes and taking prompt action. We’ll advise you whether you need to be referred to a GP or hospital for medical advice. If your vision is affected, you may be prescribed stronger glasses lenses or special magnifiers to help you to see more.
What can be done?
There is currently no treatment to reverse the effects of dry AMD but the wet form can be treated in several ways. Various forms of laser treatment may be carried out on an outpatient basis to halt or slow the progression of abnormal blood vessels, reducing/slowing further sight loss. Drugs are also available for treating wet AMD. Trials are also taking place for new types of drugs and for combination therapies using drugs and laser treatment.
There is evidence to suggest that improving your diet by eating fresh fruits and dark green, leafy vegetables may delay or reduce the severity of AMD. Some studies show that taking nutritional supplements may be effective in slowing the progression of AMD.
If you have any concerns at all about developing AMD, particularly if someone in your family has been diagnosed with it:
- Request an appointment now to see our optician.
- Our optician will be able to show you and discuss with you the current health of your macula using retinal photography
- Our optician will monitor the health of your eyes closely year on year, give you professional advice on taking nutritional supplements and on helping you to make any necessary changes to your lifestyle which will help your eyes to remain healthier for longer.