What is age-related macular degeneration?

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye condition that affects your central vision. Your macular is located at the back of the eye and is responsible for seeing fine detail. When the macula is damaged, vision becomes blurred, especially in the middle section of your vision.

Some groups of people are statistically more likely to suffer from AMD:

  • Older people - the risk of AMD increases to 30% in people over the age of 75
  • People from a Caucasian background
  • Anyone with a family history of the condition
  • Women can be at greater risk than men
  • Other factors, such as smoking and obesity, can also increase the risk


What are the types of aged-related macular degeneration?

There are two types of AMD, dry (atrophic) and wet (neovascular). Usually, AMD starts as dry, and it may progress to the wet type.

Dry AMD occurs when light-sensitive cells in the macula break down. Damage can be gradual, and vision can remain at a reasonable level for a long time. The most common symptom of dry AMD is blurred vision, and details like faces and words in books can become difficult to recognise. Dry AMD can sometimes affect one eye but usually affects both.

Wet AMD, also known as advanced AMD, is caused by abnormal blood vessels growing under the macula. These blood vessels are often weak and leak fluid, raising the macula from its normal position. Damage happens very quickly. The most common early symptom of wet AMD is straight lines appearing to be wavy. A blurred spot may also appear, affecting the central vision.


How do I know if I have AMD?

Your Optician or doctor can check for AMD as part of a comprehensive dilated eye exam. During the exam, you will be given some eye drops to dilate your pupil, and then your doctor or Optician will check your eyes. The exam is painless. 


What treatment is available?

There is no current cure for AMD. However, studies have shown that certain vitamins can preserve the eyesight of people with AMD for longer. There is also a chemical called lutein that is believed to protect the eye tissue by absorbing harmful blue light.

Green leafy vegetables like kale, broccoli and spinach, as well as colourful fruits and vegetables, are all good natural sources of antioxidant vitamins and lutein. Regular use of dietary supplement tablets, which contain a balanced mix of vitamins and lutein is also recommended.

Wet AMD can be treated with laser surgery, photodynamic therapy and injections into the eye. None of these methods is a cure. However, treatment may be lifelong and loss of vision may progress even with treatment.


How do I get help?

If you’re worried you may have AMD,  you should book an appointment with your Optician or doctor at the earliest opportunity. If you’re over the age of 60 or have experienced recent changes in your central vision, your Optician will examine your eyes thoroughly to look for signs of AMD.

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