Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration is the most common cause of severe loss of eyesight among people 50 and older. Only the center of vision is affected with this disease. It is important to realize that people rarely go blind from it.
AMD affects the central vision and the ability to see fine details. In AMD, a part of the retina called the macula is damaged. In advanced stages, people lose their ability to drive, to see faces, and to read smaller print. In its early stages, AMD may have no signs or symptoms, so people may not suspect they have it.
Types of Age-Related Macular Degeneration and Causes
The two primary types of age-related macular degeneration have different causes:
- Dry. This type is the most common. About 80% of those with AMD have the dry form. Its exact cause is unknown, although both genetic and environmental factors are thought to play a role. This happens as the light-sensitive cells in the macula slowly break down, generally one eye at a time. The loss of vision in this condition is usually slow and gradual.
- Wet. Although less common, it usually leads to more severe vision loss in patients than dry AMD. Wet AMD happens when abnormal blood vessels start to grow beneath the retina. They leak fluid and blood and can create a large blind spot in the center of the visual field.
Risk Factors for Age-Related Macular Degeneration
- Being 50 and older
- Eating a diet high in saturated fat
- High blood pressure or hypertension
Age-Related Macular Degeneration Symptoms
Individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
- Blurry or fuzzy vision
- Straight lines appear wavy
- A dark, empty area or blind spot appears in the center of vision
- Loss of central vision, which is necessary for driving, reading, recognizing faces and performing close-up work/li>
The presence of drusen, which are tiny yellow deposits in the retina, is one of the most common early signs of age-related macular degeneration. It may mean the eye is at risk for developing more severe age-related macular degeneration. These will be visible to your doctor during an eye exam.
To use the Amsler grid, follow these steps:
- Wearing any glasses you normally use to read, hold the grid 12 to 15 inches away from your face in good light.
Cover one eye.
- Look directly at the center dot with your uncovered eye and keep your eye focused on it.
- While looking directly at the center dot, notice in your side vision if all grid lines look straight or if any lines or areas look blurry, wavy, dark or blank.
- Follow the same steps with the other eye.
If you notice any areas of the grid that appear darker, wavy, blank or blurry, contact your ophthalmologist right away.
Complications of Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration can result in severe loss of central vision but rarely causes blindness. It can, however, make it difficult to read, drive or perform other daily activities that require fine central vision. In AMD, the health of the peripheral retina is unaffected, so patients can rest assured that their peripheral (side) vision, and their ability to walk around without bumping into things, is usually preserved.