AGE-RELATED MACULAR DEGENERATION
WHAT IS AGE-RELATED MACULAR DEGENERATION (AMD)?
AMD is a common eye condition among people age 50 and older. It is a leading cause of vision loss in older adults. It gradually destroys the macula, the part of the eye that provides sharp, central vision needed for seeing objects clearly.
In some people, AMD advances so slowly that vision loss does not occur for a long time. In others, the disorder progresses faster and may lead to a loss of vision in one or both eyes. The vision loss makes it difficult to recognize faces, drive a car, read, print, or do close work, such as sewing or fixing things around the house.
Despite the limited vision, AMD does not cause complete blindness. You will be able to see using your side (peripheral) vision.
WHO IS AT RISK?
AMD usually occurs in people who are age 50 and older. As people get older, the risk increases. Other risk factors include the following:
Smoking: Research shows that smoking increases the risk of AMD two-fold.
Race: Caucasians are much more likely to get AMD than people of African descent.
Family history: People with a family history of AMD are at higher risk.
WHAT FORMS OF AMD CAN CAUSE VISION LOSS?
There are two forms of AMD: dry and wet. Either form can advance and cause severe vision loss.
The dry form is more common and has three stages: early, intermediate, and advanced. It happens when the light-sensitive cells in the macula slowly break down, gradually blurring central vision in the affected eye.
The wet form is considered advanced AMD and can be more severe. It happens when new blood vessels under the macula leak blood and fluid. Damage to the macula can occur rapidly.
All people who have the wet form had the dry form first.
WHAT IS DRY AMD?
Dry AMD is the most common form of AMD in its early or intermediate stages. It occurs in about 90 percent of the people with the condition.
Dry AMD happens when the light-sensitive cells in the macula slowly break down, gradually blurring central vision in the affected eye. As dry AMD progresses, you may see a blurred spot in the center of your vision. Your eye care professional may call this “geographic atrophy.”
Over time, central vision in the affected eye can be slowly lost as less of the macula works.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF DRY AMD?
Dry AMD has few symptoms in the early stages. It is important to have your eyes examined regularly before the disease progresses.
In the later stages, blurred vision is the most common symptom of dry AMD. Objects also may not appear to be as bright as they used to be.
As a result, you may have trouble recognizing faces. You may need more light for reading and doing other tasks. Both eyes can have dry AMD or one eye can be affected first.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF WET AMD?
Straight lines may appear wavy during the early stages of wet AMD. People with wet AMD also may develop a blind spot, which results in the loss of central vision. If you notice these or other changes to your vision, contact your eye care professional at once. Again, eye care professionals may be able to treat the condition before severe vision loss occurs.
DOES LIFESTYLE MAKE A DIFFERNCE?
Some lifestyle choices, like smoking, are linked to AMD although it remains unknown if altering any of these would alter the impact of AMD on an individual. Nevertheless, the following choices may have an impact on AMD and certainly promote healthy living, including the following:
Maintaining normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels
Eating a healthy diet rich in green, leafy vegetables and fish