Age-related macular degeneration, also known as AMD, is a leading cause of irreversible visual impairment and blindness in older persons. At the back of the eye is a light-sensing nerve tissue called the retina. AMD affects the central part of the retina, called the macula.
In early AMD, there are yellow deposits called drusen on the macula and you may not have noticeable or significant symptoms.
In the later stages of AMD, the central vision is affected. A person who has late AMD may have difficulty seeing fine details; there may be shadows or blurred spots in the central vision and straight lines may look wavy. Losing your central vision can make it difficult to recognise faces, read fine print, drive, watch television or do close-up work like sewing or drawing.
There are two types of late AMD: dry AMD and wet AMD.
In late dry AMD, the cells in the macula get thinner and degenerate.
In late wet AMD, abnormal blood vessels grow under the macula, which leaks blood and fluid. This causes swelling and damage to the macula, which can rapidly blur and distort the vision. If left untreated, this eventually becomes a scar resulting in permanent loss of central vision. So it is important to see an eye doctor once you notice any blurring or distortion of your central vision before it is too late.
The risk of developing AMD increases with:
While there is currently no treatment for early AMD, a healthy lifestyle can help keep your eyes healthy.
Studies have shown that the Age-Related Eye Disease Study-2 (AREDS-2) supplements can slow vision loss.
Most patients require multiple and regular injections, and it is important not to skip any. Without regular treatment, wet AMD can deteriorate rapidly and be more difficult to treat. Laser procedures, such as photodynamic therapy, can also be used to treat wet AMD but are less commonly used.
If you have vision loss from AMD, low vision aids can help you manage daily activities. Support from family, friends, counsellors, and support groups will help you stay positive.
Get regular eye examinations, especially if you have risk factors of AMD or if you notice changes in your vision. Early detection and treatment can prevent further vision loss from AMD.