What Is Age-Related Macular Degeneration?
Whether you were recently diagnosed or you have a family member suffering from age-related macular degeneration (AMD), it pays to be informed. Like many people, you may not have a full understanding of age-related macular degeneration. Few of us truly know what is happening within our eyes and behind them.
Currently, age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness amongst the elderly. Thankfully, new treatments have recently changed the severity of the disease. AMD is more manageable today than it ever has been in the past.
February is AMD Awareness Month, and the American Academy of Ophthalmology reminds everyone that advanced treatment and early detection can help save your vision.
Types of Age-Related Macular Degeneration
There are two primary types of age-related macular degeneration:
- Dry Form – The “dry” type of macular degeneration is known for having yellow deposits, known as drusen, within the macula. A minor amount of drusen may not cause harmful vision loss. However, as the drusen grow in size and number, a dimming or distortion effect may become present in the eyesight of those affected.
- Wet Form – The “wet” form of macular degeneration is known for having abnormal blood vessels from the choroid underneath the macula. These vessels then leak blood and fluid directly into the retina, where the vision becomes distorted – appearing wavy in nature – and causing blind spots.
Typically, most patients diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration suffer from the dry form and lose their central vision. It is important to note that dry form macular degeneration can eventually escalate into wet form macular degeneration.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration Symptoms
While in the early stages of age-related macular degeneration, you may not notice any symptoms of the disease. Over time, the first symptom to display itself will be a gradual or sudden change in the overall quality of your vision. You’ll likely notice that a straight line directly ahead of you now appears distorted or wavy. Eventually, this turns into dramatic central vision loss.
Other key symptoms to watch for include dark, blurry portions near the center of your vision or a distinct change in how you view color.
If you notice any of these symptoms, consult an ophthalmologist immediately. These doctors specialize in eye care and surgery. Typically, you’ll want to schedule a full eye exam every two to four years, especially if you are above 45-years-old.
Who Is at Risk?
Age is the primary factor for macular degeneration. Most patients are diagnosed with AMD after the age of 60. However, the disease can present itself earlier. Some risk factors include:
- Smoking – Regular smoking doubles the risk of AMD.
- Race – AMD is more common amongst Caucasians.
- Genetics – Your family history and genetics play a significant role in the development of AMD.