Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye condition that leads to the gradual loss of central vision.
Central vision is used to see what is directly in front of you, during activities such as reading or watching television for example.
The central vision becomes increasingly blurred leading to symptoms including:
- difficulty reading printed or written text (because it appears blurry)
- colours appear less vibrant
- difficulty recognising people’s faces
AMD usually affects both eyes but the speed in which it progresses can vary from eye to eye.
What causes AMD?
Macular degeneration develops when the macula (the part of the eye responsible for central vision) is unable to function as effectively as it used to.
It is still unclear what causes the macula to become damaged, but getting older, smoking, a lack of certain nutrients in the diet and a family history of the AMD are known to increase the risk of developing the condition.
Macular degeneration does not affect the peripheral vision (outer vision), which means it will not cause complete blindness.
Types of age-related macular degeneration
Dry AMD develops when the cells of the macula become damaged due to lack of nutrients and a build-up of waste products called drusen. It is the most common and least serious type of AMD accounting for around 9 out of 10 cases. The loss of vision is gradual occurring over many years. However, an estimated 1 in 10 people with dry AMD will then go on to develop wet AMD, which is a much more serious condition that can cause rapid loss of central vision.
Wet AMD develops when abnormal blood vessels form underneath the macula, which can bleed, leak and eventually scar, causing damage to the cells of the retina (doctors sometimes refer to wet AMD as neovascular AMD). Wet AMD is more serious and without treatment vision can deteriorate within days.
When to seek medical advice
If you notice problems with your vision, such as blurring or specifically distortion of straight lines appearing curved or kinked, you should make an appointment with your consultant, as soon as possible. If your vision suddenly gets worse or you notice blind spots in your field of vision, seek advice immediately. Either book an emergency appointment with an optometrist or a consultant.
Who is affected
AMD is the leading cause of visual impairment in the UK, 462,000 people experiencing some degree of AMD. For reasons that are unclear AMD tends to be more common in women than men. Caucasian and people of Chinese ethnicity are more likely to get AMD then other ethnic groups. As would be expected by its name, age is one of the most important risk factors for AMD. It is estimated that around 1 in 500 people aged between 55-64 have AMD. This rises to 1 in 8 people aged 85 or over.
Reducing your risk
The best ways you can reduce your risk of getting AMD, or your AMD becoming worse are:
- stop smoking if you are a smoker
- moderate your consumption of alcohol
- eat a healthy diet high with at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day
- try to achieve or maintain a healthy weight
- consider taking vitamin and mineral supplementation, such as MacuLEH
Treatments available for this condition:
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