What is Age-Related Macular Degeneration?
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common cause of vision loss in those aged over 50. It causes a gradual loss of central (but not peripheral) vision. While painless, AMD can interfere with simple everyday activities, such as the ability to see faces, drive, read, write, or do close work, such as cooking.
In some people, AMD advances so slowly that it does not occur for a long time. In others, the disease progresses faster and may lead to a loss of vision in one or both eyes. As it progresses, the blurred area near the center of the vision surfaces. It may grow larger over time, and objects may not appear to be as bright as they used to be.
What are the Causes?
While there is no exact cause to age-related macular degeneration, it may be related to a combination of heredity and environmental factors, including smoking and diet. The disease develops as the eye ages with tissue breakdown.
Factors that may increase your risk include:
- This condition is most common in people over 65.
- Family history and genetics. This disease is hereditary.
- Most commonly diagnosed in Caucasians than others.
- Regular exposure to smoke or smoking cigarettes significantly increases your risk.
- Obesity can increase the likelihood of early or intermediate AMD progressing to a more severe disease.
What are the Symptoms?
Age-Related Macular Degeneration can cause a variety of symptoms that can affect your daily life. These symptoms, as noted by the BrightFocus Foundation, include:
- Visual Field Defect: Visual field is the wide angel of vision that a healthy eye can see. As AMD progresses, the center of a person’s visual field may become smudged, distorted or lost. This leads to problems with reading, driving, watching TV and recognizing faces.
- Contrast Sensitivity: As AMD progresses, it may become more difficult to see textures and subtle changes in the environment. Patients may be at risk of falls if their contrast sensitivity is lost. Difficulty in distinguishing between two colors of a similar hue when placed side by side may arise.
- Poor Tolerance for Changing Light Levels: AMD patients may find it difficult to adjust their eyes when driving and walking at sunset or when going from a darker room to lighter one.
- Need for Higher Light Levels: AMD patients may find the need for bright light levels for activities such as reading, cooking, and taking on day-to-day tasks.
- Impaired Depth Perception: As AMD progresses, patients may have difficulty in properly judging distance, which can make walking harder and cause patients to be more susceptible to missteps and falls.
What are the Treatment Options?
If your condition is diagnosed early on, you can take steps to help slow down the progress, such as taking vitamin supplements, eating healthily, and not smoking. Other treatments options include:
Low Vision Rehabilitation
AMD doesn’t affect your peripheral vision and usually doesn’t cause total blindness. It can, however, reduce or eliminate your central vision, which is necessary for everyday tasks such as reading, facial recognition, and driving. Consult a low vision rehabilitation specialist, occupational therapist and your eye doctor to discuss rehabilitation options to help you adapt to your changing vision.
Surgery to Implant a Telescopic Lens
For patients with advanced dry macular degeneration in both eyes, one option for improving vision may be surgery to implant a telescopic lens in one eye. This will look like a tiny plastic tube, which is equipped with lenses that magnify your field of vision. It may improve both distant and close-up vision, but also narrows field of view.
How to Live with Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Even after receiving a diagnosis of AMD, you can take steps that may help slow vision loss.
- Don’t smoke. Smoking can increase the progression. Consult your doctor for help.
- Healthy diet. Antioxidant-high fruits and vegetables contribute to eye health. These include kale, spinach, broccoli, peas, and other vegetables with high levels of antioxidants, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Foods containing high levels of zinc may also be particularly beneficial, along with high-protein foods such as beef, pork, and lamb.
- Healthy weight and regular exercise. Maintaining a healthy weight by exercising regularly helps reduce health risks and improves overall health.
- Routine eye exams. Schedule routine follow up exams. In between appointments, assess your vision using an Amsler grid. This will help identify if your condition develops into a more advanced stage of AMD, which can be treated with drugs.
If you believe you could be in the early stages of age-related macular degeneration, seek the help of an eye care professional. Dr. Ghosheh and the caring team at Advanced Eye Medical can help diagnose your condition and determine the next steps to treatment.