What is Age-Related Macular Degeneration?
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye disease that causes the breakdown of a small area at the center of the retina called the macula. As the leading cause of vision loss in those over the age of 60, it's important for you to understand what it is and what you can do to protect your vision.
The macula is responsible for your central vision, which allows you to see fine details clearly to enjoy everyday activities like reading, driving, and recognizing the faces of your loved ones.
Progressively damaging the macula, AMD can result in the blurring, darkening, or distortion of your central vision. In some cases it can lead to permanent vision loss.
There are two types of AMD, dry and wet, each affecting the eye differently and with varying symptoms.
Most cases of AMD originate with the dry form—caused by the aging and thinning of macular tissue. This condition usually develops slowly and may result in mild vision distortion. Although, in some severe cases, vision loss can be more significant.
Dry AMD is characterized by tiny yellow deposits that form under the retina called drusen. Drusen can be detected using advanced imaging technology by your eye physician.
Signs & Symptoms
- Blurry or hazy vision
- Need for bright light to see up close
- Difficulty seeing when going from bright light to low light
- Colors appear less vivid or bright
- Difficulty recognizing people's faces
If you notice any changes in your central vision, you should tell your eye doctor immediately as the disease can quickly and unexpectedly turn into the more damaging wet form (10%-15% of people with dry AMD progress to wet AMD).
This form of AMD is much more serious and is characterized by abnormal blood vessels developing under the macula. These vessels may leak fluid, causing blurred or distorted vision sometimes in only a few days. As such, vision loss can be much more rapid and irreversible without immediate treatment. Once you have developed wet AMD in one eye, there is a 50% chance that it will manifest itself in the other eye.
Signs & Symptoms
- Distorted vision causing straight lines to appear bent or crooked
- Dark or blank spots in your vision
- Loss of central vision
- Size and/or color of objects appear different for each eye
- Colors lose their brightness
Early detection and treatment of wet AMD is critical for preserving good vision. Make sure to schedule regular visits with your eye physician to ensure early diagnosis.
Who Is at Risk?
The most significant risk factor for developing AMD is age. One large study found that the risk of developing AMD jumps from about 2% of middle-aged people in their 50s to nearly 30% in people over the age of 75.
Genetic changes played a role for nearly half of those with AMD, but there are other risk factors as well, such as:
- High blood pressure
- Abnormal cholesterol
- Oxidative stress
Simple Steps You Can Take to Protect Your Vision
Begin taking control of your vision health with these simple lifestyle tips:
- Eat a healthy diet rich in green leafy vegetables and fish
- Maintain normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels
- Avoid smoking
- Exercise regularly
- Take a physician-recommended eye health supplement
Eye supplements can also play a critical role in supporting the health of the macula by providing important nutrients at higher levels than can be achieved through diet alone.
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"What Is Age-Related Macular Degeneration?", American Academy of Ophthalmology, aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/amd-macular-degeneration
"Macular Degeneration Symptoms", American Academy of Ophthalmology, aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/amd-symptoms
"Who is at risk for Macular Degeneration?", American Academy of Ophthalmology, aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/amd-risk