How Age-Related Macular Degeneration Can Harm Your Vision
Imagine life with worsening vision – the increasing difficulty of everyday tasks and frustration of adjusting to lower vision. Unfortunately, this is a reality for many individuals diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration, or AMD.
More than 10 million Americans are affected by AMD, and it is a leading cause of vision loss among individuals age 50 or older.
Doctors at Dean McGee Eye Institute (DMEI) frequently treat AMD. Our physicians work with patients to help them understand the disease’s risks, how it affects vision, and how to proceed after an AMD diagnosis.
What is Age-Related Macular Degeneration?
AMD is a condition that causes damage to the eye’s macula. The macula is at the center of the retina and is responsible for providing clear, central vision. It’s made up of light-sensitive tissue and allows the eye to focus on fine print and other small visual points that require refined focus. It’s the reason you can thread a needle. AMD causes the macula tissue to break down.
As AMD develops, it causes central vision to become blurry and dark. Eventually, gaps in vision can develop. While the condition doesn’t cause total blindness, it can be debilitating in serious cases.
The condition can be identified through several types of eye exams, including a comprehensive dilated eye exam, an Amsler grid test, a Fluorescein angiography, Indocyanine green angiography, and optical coherence tomography.
During the diagnosis process, doctors will look for drusen, which are small, yellow deposits under the retina. These deposits can indicate AMD.
How Does AMD Affection Vision?
AMD can advance slowly, according to the National Eye Institute and there are several stages of AMD: early, intermediate, and late. Each has a different level of vision loss. Patients with early AMD have no vision loss and may not show symptoms. It’s diagnosed by the appearance of medium-sized drusen.
Intermediate AMD is characterized by larger drusen or discoloration of the retina. Vision loss may occur at this stage, but it’s also common not to experience any symptoms. Both early and intermediate AMD can only be detected with an exam.
Patients with late AMD experience vision loss caused by the damage to the macula. Large drusen are present. Late AMD can take two forms: dry AMD and wet AMD.
Dry AMD, also called geographic atrophy, causes the breakdown of light-sensitive cells that bring visual information to the brain. Supporting tissue under the macula also breaks down. Both issues cause vision loss.
Wet AMD, also called neovascular AMD, is caused by an abnormal growth of blood vessels underneath the retina. This growth can cause macula-damaging bleeding and leakage. Unlike dry AMD, wet AMD develops rapidly.
While there isn’t a treatment for early AMD, it can be monitored for progression. Later stages are typically treated with several types of injections or laser therapies.
What Are the Risk Factors of AMD?
Several factors may lead you to be at risk of developing AMD.
AMD is most likely to develop in people older than 60.
If AMD runs in your family, you’re more likely to develop AMD than individuals without a family history of the condition.
Caucasians have a higher risk of AMD compared to Hispanic, Latino, and African-American populations.
There is a correlation between smoking and an increased risk of AMD. Smokers have nearly double the chance of developing AMD compared to non-smokers.
Research has shown that certain lifestyle choices can affect AMD. Regular exercise, a healthy diet rich in leafy green vegetables, avoiding smoking, and healthy blood pressure can help lower the risk of AMD.
AMD Related DMEI Services
DMEI is committed to providing the best treatment for all eye patients, including those suffering from AMD. DMEI is home to several retina and macular specialists who are ranked among the best doctors in the field. The Institute also hosts clinical trials related to AMD that help test new treatment options, and researchers at DMEI are dedicated to finding a cure.
Additionally, last year DMEI hosted the 14th Annual Macular Degeneration, Low Vision, and Glaucoma Seminar that brought together field experts from across the nation to share their knowledge with patients and practitioners. By staying at the forefront of research and education, we ensure we offer the best in care.
If you think you or a loved one might be at risk for AMD, now is the time to request a comprehensive eye exam.