Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye disease that may get worse over time. It’s the leading cause of severe, permanent vision loss in people over age 60. It happens when the small central portion of your retina, called the macula, wears down.
Age-related macular degeneration
Many people in the UK are affected by age related macular degeneration which affects the central part of the sight.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye disease that may get worse over time. It’s the leading cause of severe, permanent central vision loss in people over age 60.
It happens when the small central portion of your retina, called the macula, wears down. The retina is the light-sensing nerve tissue at the back of your eye.
Because the disease happens as you get older, it’s often called age-related macular degeneration. It can cause severe vision problems due to the central loss of clarity of vision. The central part of your sight is the area that sees all the detail. The peripheral part of your vision only sees motion and is useful for night time vision. You can not see detail with the peripheral part, for detail you need the central part of the sight to be healthy and functioning well.
Another form of macular degeneration, called Stargardt disease or juvenile macular degeneration, affects children and young adults.
What causes it?
As you get older, the circulation in your eyes can become poor and lead to a build-up of waste products in the macular region of the retina.
The result of this build-up is that your eyes will not work as well as they once did. A lack of exercise and fitness increases your macular degeneration risk at any age, even when older, so stay active to lower your risk of macular change.
What is the macular region of the retina?
The retina is at the back of the eye. The macula is the central part of the retina, which picks up the fine detail. The macula is where the majority of the cones are in your retina. Cones are the cells that give your sight detail and color. without functioning cones your sight would be monochrome = black and white.
How does macular degeneration affect sight?
Things you see may be blurred, especially in the centre. This might make it difficult to read bus numbers or recognise people’s faces.
• Straight lines may look curved, this is most likely in wet macular change, or have gaps and missing parts which is more likely in dry macular change.
• You may notice blank areas when looking at the TV or reading.
Is this the start of blindness? The macula is the part of the eye that sees detail, so fine vision will be affected. However, the periphery of your vision will be unaffected
Is there a cure?
For most people who get this condition, the answer is no. However it can be slowed down with the use of macular supplements in some cases, e.g. dry macular degeneration.
However, some people have leaking or swollen blood vessels at the macula, this can only be treated at an eye clinic in a hospital.
Is there prevention?
It is vital to diagnose wet exudative macular changes as soon as possible. This is usually first noticed by the patient due to a sudden reduction in reading vision and distortion. If this is noticed you need to book in asap for an examination of your sight and you may well benefit from OCT to help with the diagnosis of wet vs dry macular changes.
Can I be helped to see better?
Your Optometrist can refer you to the Low Vision Clinic at the hospital, which offers a choice of magnifying aids.
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Make an appointment for an eye test / examination if you notice any changes in your vision. If you develop sudden vision changes, such as double vision or flashes of light, sudden eye pain, or sudden headache, call us straight away.
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