Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) affects the retina, which is responsible for sharp central vision needed to see straight ahead of you. This common eye disease is typically asymptomatic until vision loss occurs. Therefore, it is extremely important to get screened for AMD with one of our doctors on a yearly basis.
Causes of Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
Age-related macular degeneration affects the macula, which is located in the center of the retina. When the macula starts to deteriorate, it causes a loss in central vision. The exact causes of this condition are not known, but it is believed that lifestyle and heredity can play a factor. For example, individuals with a family history are more likely to develop AMD than those without a family history of the condition. Eating a diet high in fat and participating in unhealthy behaviors, like smoking may also contribute to the development of AMD.
Risk Factors for Age-Related Macular Degeneration
- Advanced Age – AMD is most common in individuals who are over the age of 50.
- Genetics – There are specific genes that are responsible for the development of AMD, and those genes tend to run in families.
- Obesity and Heart Disease – Individuals who are overweight or who have heart disease are at increased risk for developing AMD.
- Race – Individuals who are Caucasian have an increased risk of developing AMD when compared to other races.
- Tobacco Usage – Individuals who smoke or who are exposed to cigarette smoke may be at an increased risk for AMD.
Symptoms of AMD
The primary symptom of AMD is a progressive central vision loss. Individuals with the condition do not typically experience pain or discomfort. Instead, they may first notice that their central vision is a bit blurry, and they may have trouble reading or seeing when driving.
If you are around the age of 50 and notice any change in your vision, it is a good idea to schedule an immediate appointment with us in order to determine if you have signs of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Eye Disease Progression
AMD typically occurs in two stages. The first stage is known as dry AMD, which can occur in one or both eyes and affects about 80 percent of those with the condition. This form of AMD does not cause leaking in the blood vessels behind the retina and macula. Instead, the macula tends to get thinner over the course of several years and drusen can start to develop on the macula, which are clumps of protein that appear yellow.
Late-stage AMD is known as wet AMD. This form of the condition is diagnosed when the blood vessels behind the macula start to bulge and leak, causing an increase in vision loss. As the original blood vessels deteriorate, the macula may grow new blood vessels, which are not as strong as the original and can cause even more leaking. Individuals with wet AMD may notice a sudden change in their visual acuity.
AMD Treatment Options with Our Eye Doctor
The first step to treating AMD is getting diagnosed early. This means it is vitally important to get yearly eye exams that check for damage to the macula and retina, especially if you are 50 years of age or older. The dry form of the condition does not have any form of treatment, but certain vitamins and supplements, like lutein and vitamins E and C, may slow the disease progression. Glasses and contacts can help improve visual acuity so that you can still read and drive.
Wet AMD has several treatment options available. The first treatment option involves taking medications that stop the growth of new blood vessels in the retina, which can help preserve central vision for longer. In serious cases, the new blood vessels may need to be eliminated with a laser. This is called photodynamic therapy (PDT) and is reserved for the worst cases of wet AMD.