As its name suggests, AMD is a type of deterioration of the macula caused by age. The macula controls visual acuity, or clarity of vision, and is located in a small central area of the retina.
A healthy macula helps us drive, recognize faces, read or watch television. It is an essential part of the working eye that allows us to see fine detail in everyday life. When this area of the eye begins to deteriorate, those tasks can become more difficult. Macular degeneration is one of the leading causes of vision impairment and loss among the aging population, and due to environmental factors (such as prolonged close range visual activities) the number of people affected is projected to increase significantly.
Signs and Symptoms of AMD
Early on, AMD may not present symptoms or may be unrecognizable until it progresses in both eyes. The first noticeable sign is often distorted lines when they should appear straight. Other symptoms can include:
- Centre of vision becomes distorted
- Dark, shadowed or white and blurry areas appear in the centre of vision
- Changes in colour perception (rare)
AMD is diagnosed as either wet (neovascular) or dry (non-neovascular). The term neovascular refers to the unwanted growth of new blood vessels in the macula.
- Dry Macular Degeneration – This is the early stage of the disease and is likely the result of the aging and thinning of macular tissues which can deposit pigment in the macula. This is diagnosed when yellowish spots, clinically known as drusen, begin to collect in and around the macula. Gradual central vision loss may be experienced.
- Wet Macular Degeneration – If left untreated, and typically seen in only about 10 percent of cases, wet AMD is the advanced form of this eye disease. New blood vessels grow beneath the retina and leak blood around the fluid. This causes permanent and irreversible damage to retinal cells, creating blind spots in the central vision.
Although there is no cure for AMD, treatments have been developed to delay progression and even improve vision early on. Nutritional intervention has also seen success in delaying the onset of wet form AMD when dry form is diagnosed. Treatments for wet form are aimed at stopping the growth of abnormal blood vessels using injections in the eye.
Since this is an age related disease, regular maintenance is key to prevention or slowing the onset of symptoms. If you are over 45 years of age, see us for a complete eye exam at least every 2 years. If you have already been diagnosed with AMD, it is best to monitor your vision daily and notify us of any noticeable changes when they occur.