AMD – or age-related macular degeneration – is a common eye condition that affects the central part of your vision but does not cause total blindness. However, it can make doing normal daily activities, from reading to driving, rather difficult.
Usually, AMD begins to affect people in their 50s and 60s, and is common in older people. Without appropriate treatment, your vision will begin to worsen – this process can happen slowly over time (if you have dry AMD) or quickly over a short period of time (if you have wet AMD).
The exact cause of AMD isn’t known, however the condition has been found to be more common in people who smoke, have high blood pressure, are overweight, or have a family history of AMD.
What are the symptoms of age-related macular degeneration?
AMD doesn’t affect the peripheral vision (the edges of your vision), instead it impacts the middle part of your eyesight. You can get AMD in both eyes or in just one eye – each case is different.
Because AMD causes blindness or distortion in the central vision, it can make doing certain activities, such as reading, watching TV, driving, and recognising facial features tricky.
Also read: Age-Related Vision Changes or Eye Problems
AMD can also present as seeing straight lines as being bumpy or crooked, sometimes objects can appear smaller than they are, colours may seem less vibrant than they used to, and you may also suffer from hallucinations (seeing things that aren’t there).
AMD doesn’t cause pain or impact the appearance of your eyes.
In some instances, AMD may be found during a routine eye examination before you have presented with any symptoms.
What causes age-related macular degeneration?
When it comes to what causes age-related macular degeneration, there’s no exact cause recognised by medical professionals.
However, studies have found that certain lifestyle and genetic factors can make you more prone to developing AMD. These include: smoking, having high blood pressure, being overweight, and having a history of AMD in your family.
How is age-related macular degeneration tested for and diagnosed?
In the first instance, you should be seen by an optometrist. They will use a special magnifying glass to take a close look at the back of your eyes and check your general vision.
They may choose to put eye drops in your eyes to highlight any problems more clearly; these drops can make your eyes blurry for a few hours so it’s best not to drive afterwards.
Also read: How Often Should I Get My Eyes Tested?
You may also be referred to a specialist eye doctor called an ophthalmologist or a specific AMD specialist. This usually only happens if treatment is required quickly and more tests are needed, such as a scan of the back of your eyes.
If you are diagnosed with having AMD, your eye doctor will talk to you about the type of AMD that you have and what your treatment options are.
What are the treatment options for AMD?
The type of treatment you’re offered depends on the type of AMD that you have been diagnosed with.
Dry AMD has no treatment, however vision aids are often offered to help reduce the impact the condition has on your life.
Wet AMD can be treated with eye injections and a light treatment known as photodynamic therapy, which should help to stop your vision getting any worse.
How to live with AMD?
Living with AMD can take some adjustment, which is why you might want to speak to your eye specialist about getting a referral to a low-vision clinic. This kind of clinic can help to teach you how to live a normal life with reduced vision.
The team at the clinic can give you useful advice and practical support for daily tasks. They can talk to you about helpful devices, like magnifying lenses, changes you can make at home, such as incorporating brighter lighting, and specialist software that can make using computers and phones easier.
Evidence suggests that AMD may be linked to unhealthy lifestyle factors, such as smoking, being overweight and not eating a healthy diet or exercising regularly. So, making changes to your lifestyle may help to slow the progress of the AMD or stop it getting any worse.
Is macular degeneration hereditary?
Doctors are yet to understand an exact cause of AMD, but studies have shown in some instances there’s an increasing likelihood of developing AMD if you have a blood relative who also has AMD. However, just because a family member has AMD that does not mean that you will develop it – this can happen in some instances but does not always happen.
How quickly does wet macular degeneration progress?
Wet AMD can progress quickly – sometimes as quickly as in a matter of days, weeks or months. However, each case of AMD is different and there’s no set time frame for how it will progress over time.
What’s the difference between wet and dry macular degeneration?
Wet AMD is caused by growth of abnormal blood vessels at the back part of the eye, whereas dry AMD is caused by a buildup of a fatty material – known as drusen – building up at the back of the eye. (It’s worth noting that dry AMD can develop into wet AMD over time, and if this happens it may then potentially be able to be treated.)
What foods should be avoided with macular degeneration?
If you have AMD, it may help to avoid processed foods that contain trans fats, oils like palm oil, lard and margarine, high-fat dairy foods, and fatty meats, as these foods may make your AMD worse over time.
Do glasses help with macular degeneration?
In some instances of AMD – usually advanced cases – a pair of special glasses that include a very high magnification can help to improve vision. You might also find that using a large magnifying glass helps to make seeing important things a little easier for you.
Contact Belson if you need macular degeneration test or advice
For information and advice regarding AMD and the testing and treatment processes in place for managing AMD, contact Belson opticians.