Age-related Macular Degeneration

Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is a degenerative disease of the macula, which is the central portion of the retina. This causes progressive loss of central vision. Since the central vision is the one involved, many of the daily tasks are affected. These include reading, writing, sewing, and the like. Therefore if one has visual disturbances from AMD, the quality of life most likely will deteriorate.

Symptoms are described as having a blurred spot in the central vision, and this usually interferes with tasks that require using their central vision like reading, and writing, and driving. Other symptoms include distortion in the center of the image. Straight lines may appear wavy.

Symptoms include cloudy vision. Sometimes there is glare, and double vision with one eye. Cataracts are usually caused by age. Our natural lens ages and changes in color, as we get older. There are however other causes of cataracts. These include those who have them at birth (congenital), those who develop them in young adulthood (developmental), those acquired from diseases like diabetes mellitus, and those that result as a complication of the intake of some medications like steroids.

If you have been diagnosed with AMD, you are not alone. There are millions of people who have this disease, especially people above the age of 55.

The cause of macular degeneration is unknown but the risk increases with advancing age. Other risk factors are hypertension, smoking, and those with family histories of retinal diseases.

There are two forms of AMD, dry and wet AMD. Dry AMD consists of yellowish deposits called drusen, which accumulate under the central portion of the macula. In wet AMD, abnormal blood vessel growth forms under the central portion of the retina, and it leaks and damages the photoreceptor cells. This can progress rapidly and cause severe damage. But the damage is contained in the patient’s central vision. It can produce a scar, which causes visual impairment that limits the patient to engage in daily activities that require detailed central vision. But even if it may significantly reduce vision, it does not lead to total blindness. Some useable visual function will remain.

There is still no cure for AMD, but there are treatment options that include vitamin supplement for the dry type, and laser treatment or intravitreal injections for the wet type. Your retina specialist can advise you on the best treatment option for you to improve your vision, and to stop your vision loss from progressing. (link to AEC retina page)

Some lifestyle habits have to change like smoking, and diet. Discuss this with your doctor.

If your visual impairment affects your quality of life, then you should ask for consult with a low vision specialist. You can discuss how your vision has affected your quality of life, and the low vision specialist will help you with aids, and services to maximize your residual vision to its fullest potential, and get back to the life you want to lead.

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