What is age-related macular degeneration?
AMD affects the central part of your vision. It is caused by damage to the macular region of the eye, which is the part of the retina that provides your detailed vision. It doesn’t normally affect your peripheral vision, so while objects in the centre may become difficult to see, the vision to the side and edges should not be affected.
There are two main types of AMD: dry and wet. Dry AMD, sometimes referred to as wear and tear, and is caused by a build-up of waste within the cells of the eye that react to light, called drusen. This usually develops slowly.
Wet AMD happens when new blood vessels grow behind the macula. These can begin to leak and damage the cells in the macula region, preventing them from working. This can start suddenly.
There are several risk factors in AMD:
- Age is a risk and AMD is more common in people over 65.
- Smoking significantly increases the risk of getting macular degeneration.
- Ultraviolet light may increase the risk. Wear glasses that block or absorb UV light.
- If you have a close relative with AMD, your risk of developing the condition is higher.
Eating a healthy diet with lots of fruit and vegetables can help to protect your eyesight. Kale, spinach and broccoli all contain nutrients that have been shown to help keep the eyes healthy.
To begin with, dry AMD may have little effect. If the disease develops, your central vision may gradually become more blurred.
Wet AMD will normally cause distorted vision, with straight lines and edges such as door frames becoming wavy. Some people also see a sudden blank spot in their central vision.
If these changes happen quickly you should see an optometrist urgently.
There is currently no treatment for dry AMD. It may be possible to see better with the help of special magnifiers and good lighting.
If it is caught early, wet AMD can be treated with injections into the eye. These injections stop the growth of new blood vessels and can help to save your vision and reduce the risk of the disease getting any worse. Treatment needs to be given quickly to stop further blood vessels forming in the eye and reduce the risk of the disease worsening.
Should you notice any change in symptoms, you should contact your optometrist immediately.