Age-related Macular Degeneration or AMD is a condition in loss of central vision in one or both eyes resulting in damage to the macula, a small area near the center of the retina. Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss affecting more than 10 million Americans, more than cataracts or glaucoma combined.
Macular Degeneration is usually compared to a camera, the macula is the central most sensitive of the “film”. The macula collects highly detailed images at the center field of vision and sends the image up to the optic nerve which is then sent to the brain. When the macula starts to deteriorate the images are not received properly. Most people notice wavy or blurred vision and the symptoms seem to get worse to the point where vision could eventually be lost permanently. In early stages, macular degeneration does not affect sight.
There are 3 stages of macular degeneration, early, intermediate, and late amd. In the early stage, most people don’t experience a loss of vision, which is why to have your eyes examined regularly is very important. While in the intermediate stage patients may notice some vision loss, blurred vision, or wavy images but still may not be a very noticeable symptom. After it’s too late, vision is usually already lost and the patient is on the way to becoming legally blind.
Little is known about macular degeneration; however, we have found that some causes are complex, and they are usually linked to heredity and environment. Research for this condition is limited to funding, however, we are working towards finding out more about the disease and seeking a breakthrough for treatment.
The biggest factor for the risk of AMD is age, the risk increases as you age and usually occur in patients 55 or older. Other risk factors include genetics, race, and smoking. Smoking doubles your risk for AMD, while Caucasians are more likely to develop the disease and if you have a family history of AMD, you’re at a higher risk.
Currently, there is no cure for macular degeneration. The best cure is to have your eyes routinely checked to catch any symptoms early enough to reduce your risk or prevent further damage and slowing down the progression. After being diagnosed, the best way to slow progression is lifestyle changes such as dieting, exercising, avoid smoking, and protecting your eyes from ultraviolet (UV Rays) light.
There are different types of Macular degeneration. The most common is Dry AMD, which affects approximately 85%-90% of cases. Dry AMD typically affects both eyes at once and is associated with the formation of drusen, which is where fatty deposits accumulate in and around the retina. Wet AMD is another type and usually begins with dry AMD. With wet AMD, abnormal blood vessels leak and fluid into the eye, this causes damage to the retina. This can cause scarring and permanent vision loss. Progression, with wet AMD, is usually quicker with vision loss, occurring within just a few weeks or even as quickly as a few days. Wet AMD can affect both eyes but is more commonly occurring in one eye.
Getting your regular eye exam can help detect AMD in the early stages. If you or a loved one have symptoms of AMD, it is crucial to talk to your eye doctor to assess what is causing vision loss, to explain the different treatment options available to slow progression and refer you to a specialist that can help you learn to cope with vision loss. Here at Dr. Obermark Eye Health Care, we work with specialists in our area and would love to give you a recommendation. Don’t let an eye disease take over your life, make your appointment today to give your eyes their chance with the best sight possible.