Macular degeneration, also referred to as age-related macular degeneration, or AMD for short, is estimated to affect around 15 million people in the United States, with around 1.7 million suffering from an advanced form of this common eye disease. Although AMD doesn’t result in total blindness, it is a leading form of vision loss and can significantly impair your ability to perform basic day to day tasks, such as reading, watching television, driving, and even recognizing the people around you.
As the name of the condition suggests, macular degeneration is a condition that occurs when part of the eye called the macula starts to degenerate. The macula is a very small area of cells within the retina, which is found at the back of the eye and is responsible for receiving light and turning into signals that are sent to the brain to tell us what we see. The macula is responsible for our central vision, and our ability to see fine details and colors. As we get older, cellular deterioration of the macula affects how well it works to deliver these crucial visual skills.
There are two types of macular degeneration. The deterioration described above is characteristic of the most common form called ‘dry’ AMD, and it accounts for around 90% of cases. The remaining 10% start as dry AMD but can progress into a ‘wet’ form of the condition. Wet AMD gets its name from the fact that as the condition progresses, abnormal blood vessels can start to form on the macula, and these leak blood and other fluids that then compromise a patient’s vision.
We’re yet to discover exactly why some people develop macular degeneration. However, there are some factors that are believed to increase your risk of developing it. These include:
Being over the age of 60
Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol regularly
Taking recreational drugs
Poor nutritional choices
Excessive amounts of time spent outside without adequate eye protection
One of the biggest difficulties of macular degeneration is that dry AMD develops very slowly, often over a period of years. As a result, the symptoms also manifest extremely slowly and are often overlooked by the patient, only being detected at a routine annual eye exam. In contrast, the symptoms of wet AMD come on very quickly – something which is extremely valuable since the effect of wet AMD on your eyesight can be rapid unless treatment is started promptly.
The symptoms of macular degeneration include:
Distortion or dark spots in the center of your vision
Objects look smaller than normal
Lines that should be straight, such as lamp posts, seem wavy, bent, or otherwise distorted
Colors seem duller than they used to
Difficulties in carrying out day to day activities due to vision problems
Unlike many other eye conditions, patients with AMD are very unlikely to experience discomfort or pain.
Sadly, any vision that is lost as a result of macular degeneration can’t be restored with a simple treatment. Instead, patients will rely on visual aids to support them in their day-to-day living. These could include magnifying lenses, brighter lighting, audio-description, screen readers, large-print newspapers, and more. Your eyecare team will be happy to talk to you about the visual aids which may benefit you. Making some positive lifestyle changes could also reduce the risk of your AMD getting any worse.
Patients with wet AMD will need to be treated quickly to prevent any further vision loss. This treatment is a series of small injections of a medication called anti-VGEF which prevents the growth of more abnormal blood vessels. You may also need light therapy to destroy existing blood vessels to prevent them from leaking any more.
If you would like more information about macular degeneration, or if you have concerns about your vision, please contact Seabert Eye Care in Burleson, Texas at (817) 857-8700 today.