Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

All You Need To Know About AMD

Aging, an unavoidable part of the life cycle, has a different effect on everyone. The effects of aging on the eyes can begin as early as 40 years-old. One out of three people over the age of 70 encounter symptoms of age-related macular degeneration, also known as AMD.

What Is AMD?

Age-related macular degeneration happens when the macular, which is the central area of the retina responsible for visual perception, begins to deteriorate. This deterioration is believed to be caused by a lack of oxygen to the cells of the eye, which as a result begins to develop a kind of protein. This protein is known as vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and the process jumpstarts the growth of new blood vessels in the retina area where there should be none.

The macula is crucial to daily vision in that it regulates a person’s ability to read, recognise faces, view a computer screen, operate motor vehicles and any other visual sources of entertainment such as watching television or playing video games.

Symptoms of AMD include:

  • Blurred vision -  inability to differentiate between objects within view
  • Color blindness - the dimming of vibrant colors to muted tones
  • Distorted vision - a straight line may appear wavy 
  • Blind spots - a missing spot on a face or object of vision
  • Light sensitivity - bright lights can cause pain

There are two types of AMD:

  1. Dry (non-neovascular) - with roughly 85 to 90 percent of patients diagnosed, dry AMD is the more common of the two types. Diagnosed in the early stages of the disease, dry AMD happens when the macula begins to thin or pigment deposits begin to appear on the retina disrupting the vision (blind spots) or both. These deposits are viewed as yellowish spots (medically referred to as drusen) and are signs of the accumulation of deteriorating tissue.
  2. Wet (neovascular) - happens with the progression of dry AMD. A more advanced stage of degeneration, wet AMD is the growth of new blood vessels below the retina that leak blood or fluid. These leakages can develop into more serious vision impairments, causing permanent damage. As the retina cells are damaged (by continuous build up of blood vessels or light) they die, leaving blind spots within the central vision.

Who Is Prone To AMD?

Macular degeneration affects everyone. As the world’s population continues to age, the number of people affected by AMD will increase.

Suspected to be a hereditary disease, those with degenerative eye disorders in their family history may be more prone to AMD. Females are also more susceptible to the disease as are smokers, heavy drug users, people with high blood pressure, obese people or those who have light-colored eyes.

Are There Any Treatments for AMD?

There are currently no documented cures for age-related degeneration. There are, however, treatments in place that can slow the progression of AMD; dry AMD excluded, though there are clinical trials in progress. Studies have shown that nutritional supplements high in antioxidant vitamins can reduce the risk of dry AMD progressing into the more severe wet AMD.

Outside of the clinical trials the most beneficial preventive approach to dry AMD is a healthy diet, regular exercise and protection for your eyes against harmful UV rays.

To find out more about AMD symptoms and treatments, visit the eye professional nearest you.

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