There are countless events in life which take us by surprise, without any indication they were about to happen; sadly, age-related macular degeneration (or AMD) is one of them.
AMD is an eye disease which can be extremely destructive, potentially causing permanent blindness. Given that it also fails to exhibit even a single symptom prior to affecting your vision, preventative care is the best way forward.
Age-related macular degeneration is, as the name suggests, a progressive disease which tends to affect those who are over 60 years of age. The macula is a part of your retina and is responsible for providing clear, sharp central vision.
Over time – and like everything else – the macula can wear down, resulting in vision impairment. There are two types of AMD: dry (atrophic) and wet (exudative).
This represents 90% of individuals with AMD. The degeneration of the macula causes a build up of small white proteins (called drusen) to deposit in the rear of your eye. These deposits can interrupt the photoreceptor layer in your retina and cause blurry vision to occur in the center of your vision.
The other 10% experience a much more severe condition. Wet AMD is where blood and other bodily fluids can leak into the eyeball from weak, rupturing blood vessels. This can severely obscure vision, causing a permanent impairment.
In general, we become progressively more at risk as we age, particularly over 60 years old. Individuals of white and Asian descent are more likely to develop the disease, and smoking has been shown to be a trigger as well.
By using advanced imaging equipment, your optometrist can examine the blood vessels of the macula in exceptional detail. Since vision impairment is caused by fluids leaking from these vessels, a deduction can be made on the advancement and severity of the condition through visual assessment.
Testing on your central vision will also be conducted to confirm the diagnosis, since it is this part of your eyesight which is affected by the condition.
Currently there is no cure for either form of AMD, and any vision lost to the disease will be permanent. However, certain treatments and dietary changes can lessen or halt the progression of the disease and preserve as much of your remaining vision as possible. This is why early recognition and diagnosis is absolutely critical to combat AMD.
While this condition does not normally present with any early symptoms, it does leave warning signs that can be spotted by an expert optometrist using cutting-edge, advanced imaging equipment.
When you have your annual eye exam, we will look specifically for these signs. From the moment a diagnosis is made, we are ahead of the curve and can take steps to limit or even halt the progression of the disease.
This proactive approach to eye care can identify AMD months, perhaps even years before symptoms (i.e. vision impairment) would normally appear. In the long term, preventative efforts can stabilize your vision.