Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a well-known problem with your retina. It occurs when a part of the retina called the macula is damaged. With AMD your central vision is lost. You cannot see fine details, whether you are looking at something up-close or at a distance. But your peripheral (side) vision will still be intact. For example, imagine you are looking at a clock with hands. With AMD, you may see the clock’s numbers but not the hands.
Two types of AMD
Dry AMD: This form is quite frequent. About 80% (8 out of 10) of individuals who have AMD have the dry form. Dry AMD is when parts of the macula get thinner with age and small clumps of protein called drusen grow. Your central vision slowly dissipates. There is no known cure for AMD yet.
Wet AMD: This form is less frequent but much more serious. Wet AMD is when new, abnormal blood vessels grow beneath the retina. These vessels may ooze blood or other fluids, causing scarring of the macula. You lose vision quicker with wet AMD than with dry AMD.
Many people don’t realize they have AMD until their vision is very hazy. This is why it is important to have regular visits to an ophthalmologist. He or she can look for the beginning signs of AMD before you have any vision problems.
Who is at risk for getting AMD?
You are more likely to develop AMD if you:
- Have eating habits high in saturated fat (found in foods like meat, butter, and cheese) are overweight
- smoke cigarettes
- are over 50 years old
- have a family history of AMD are Caucasian (white)
- Being diagnosed with heart disease is another risk factor for AMD, as is having high cholesterol levels.
How is AMD diagnosed?
If you have an eye exam, your ophthalmologist may ask you to look at an Amsler grid
This grid helps you notice any hazy or blank spots in your field of vision. Your ophthalmologist will also look inside your eye through a specific lens. He or she can see if there are differences in the retina and macula.
Your ophthalmologist will place drops in your eye to dilate (widen) your pupil.
This allows him or her to look through a specific lens at the within of your eye. Your doctor may do fluorescein angiography to observe what is happening with your retina. Yellow dye (called fluorescein) is injected into a vein, normally in your arm. The dye travels through your blood vessels. A special camera takes pictures of the retina as the dye travels throughout its blood vessels. This shows if abnormal new blood vessels are showing up under the retina.
Optical coherence tomography (OCT)
is also a way to look closely at the retina. A machine scans the retina and gives a very detailed images of the retina and macula.
How is AMD treated?
Dry AMD: At the moment, there is no way to cure the dry form of AMD. However, people with lots of yellow deposits in their eyes or who have serious vision loss may benefit from taking a certain combination of nutritional supplements. A large study found those certain individuals may slow their dry AMD by taking these vitamins and minerals daily:
Vitamin C (500 mg)
Vitamin E (400 IU)
Zeaxanthin (2 mg)
Zinc (80 mg)
Copper (2 mg)
Your ophthalmologist can speak with you if vitamins and minerals are recommended for your dry AMD.
There are medications called anti-VEGF drugs to help treat wet AMD. Anti-VEGF treatment helps diminish the number of abnormal blood vessels in your retina. It also slows any oozing from blood vessels. This medicine is delivered to your eye through a very thin needle.
Laser surgery may also be used to treat certain types of wet AMD. Your surgeon shines a laser light beam on the abnormal blood vessels. This diminishes the number of vessels and slows their leaking.
Speak with your ophthalmologist about ways to treat your AMD.
Making the most of the vision you have
If you have AMD, you can learn how to make the most of your sight. Often you can still do many of your favorite activities with special low vision tools. These can consist of different kinds of magnifying tools, handheld computers, electronic items and more.
Also, you can learn how to use your side vision to help you daily. A vision rehabilitation specialist can teach you how this operates. They also can help you find many low vision support services and devices.
Test your vision with the Amsler grid
AMD causes your vision to change over time. You may not notice these differences when they happen. But you need to catch vision differences as soon as possible. Treating them early can help slow or stop furhter loss of vision.
You should use an Amsler grid every day to monitor your sight. One is below for you to use.