What Is AMD?
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye condition that occurs when aging causes damage to the central area of the retina, also known as the macula. The macula is the retina’s central portion and is made up of light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. This part of the eye is responsible for focusing on sharp, straight-ahead vision.
AMD is a common condition, with more than 15 million Americans having some form of it. It’s the leading cause of vision loss in those over 65. You’re at a higher risk of developing it if you experience heavy exposure to sunlight, consume diets high in saturated fats and cholesterol, or have vascular disease and high blood pressure.
This condition can happen very slowly in some individuals and faster in others. If you’re in the early stages, you may not notice that you’ve been experiencing vision loss for a long time. However, if you detect it early enough, you can get treatment to stop or even reverse vision loss. Therefore, regular eye exams are essential to look for early signs and symptoms.
Types and Stages of AMD
There are two types of AMD you can experience: dry and wet.
Most people with macular degeneration have dry AMD (also known as atrophic AMD), which is when the macula becomes too thin to function correctly. The term “dry” does not mean the person has dry eyes, just that it has not progressed into the wet condition. Dry AMD happens in three stages: early, intermediate, and late. As long as you are not in the very late stages, there are ways to make the most of your remaining vision.
Any stage of dry AMD can turn into wet AMD (also known as advanced neovascular AMD). It happens when abnormal blood vessels grow in the back of the eye, damaging the macula. The good news is wet macular degeneration can be treated with intravitreal injections if caught quickly. This treatment can stop and even reverse vision loss if given at the appropriate time.
Symptoms of AMD
Since macular degeneration is a progressive disease, symptoms usually worsen over time.
- Most of the time, the early stages of AMD will not cause any symptoms.
- In intermediate dry AMD, some people may notice mild symptoms such as blurred vision or trouble seeing in low lighting.
- In late AMD (wet or dry type), many people notice that straight lines appear wavy or crooked. It is also common for a blurry area to be near the center of your vision that gets bigger over time. Colors may also be less bright than before, and you may have trouble seeing in low lighting.
How Can I Protect My Eyesight?
Research has shown you may be able to lower your risk of macular degeneration or slow vision loss by making healthier choices such as:
- Quit smoking. According to the FDA, those who smoke cigarettes are four times more likely to develop macular degeneration than those who don’t smoke.
- Take part in regular physical activity. Studies published in BMC Ophthalmology and the journal Retina have found obesity to be a significant factor in the development of late-stage AMD.
- Maintain healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels. High cholesterol and blood pressure can lead to the development of AMD.
Treatment for AMD
Finding treatment for macular degeneration will depend on the stage and type. While there is currently no treatment for the early stages, regular eye exams, eating healthy, exercising, and quitting smoking can help stop it from progressing. If you have intermediate AMD, ask your eye doctor about dietary supplements that may be able to prevent it from turning into wet AMD.
At California Oculoplastics and Retina, our oculoplastic & retina surgery team is dedicated to treating wet macular degeneration. We offer intraocular injections to help stop and even reverse vision loss. Contact us today at (626) 653-9395 or visit our website to schedule an appointment.