is Age-related Macular Degeneration?
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
is the leading cause of blindness
in people over 65 years of age. There is deterioration of the central
part of the retina, the macula, which is the area that allows us
to see color and detail. This is essential for activities such as
driving, reading, and threading a needle.
The peripheral retina surrounds the
macula. It is responsible for side and night vision, and it is not
affected in AMD. For example, you might see the outline of a clock,
but would not be able to tell what time it is.
ABOUT MACULAR DEGENERATION
In AMD, there is a breakdown and deterioration
of the macular tissue. When the macula is not functioning properly,
we experience blurriness or darkness in the center of our vision.
Both distance and near vision are affected.
Symptoms begin as blurred or distorted
central vision and can progress to total loss of central vision.
Total blindness does not occur. Therefore, people continue to have
some useful vision and are able to take care of themselves
AMD is most commonly a result of the
body’s natural aging process. There are two types of AMD. One is
the dry or atrophic type and the other is the wet or exudative type.
Most people have the dry type of macular
degeneration. In this type, the tissues break down and become thin
with aging causing gradual loss of vision.
Wet macular degeneration accounts for
about 10% of all cases. It results when aging of the retina is compounded
by growth of abnormal blood vessels underneath the macula. These
vessels leak fluid and/or blood that blur central vision. Visual
loss may be rapid and severe with significant distortion as a result
of dense scar tissue formation.
Example of Wet Macular Degeneration
ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
Symptoms are variable.
The condition may not be noticeable in its early stages. Sometimes
there is loss of vision in only one eye while vision remains good
in the other eye for many years.
When both eyes are affected,
the loss of central vision is usually noticed earlier. Some common
ways visual loss is detected include:
- Words in the center of a page
- A dark or blind spot appears in
the center of vision
- Straight lines appear wavy or
IS MACULAR DEGENERATION DIAGNOSED?
Many people do not realize that
they have a macular problem until blurred vision becomes obvious.
Your ophthalmologist can detect early stages of the disease
during an eye examination by:
- Viewing the macula with a lighted
instrument called an ophthalmoscope
- Performing a simple test in which
you look at a grid resembling graph paper
- Taking special photographs after
a dye is injected in the arm to locate abnormal blood vessels. This procedure is called
HOW IS MACULAR
ongoing research, there is no cure yet for dry AMD. Some doctors
believe that nutritional supplements may slow the degenerative process.
Treatment focuses on helping the patient find ways to cope with
Wet macular degeneration is treated with administration of different
medications which stop the growth of leaking abnormal blood vessels
causing a delay in progression and sometimes visual improvement.
Despite advanced medical treatment,
people with AMD still experience some visual loss. A wide range
of low-vision devices, support services, and rehabilitation programs
are also available to help patients maintain a satisfying lifestyle.