What is the condition?
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye condition that affects a tiny part of the retina at the back of your eye, which is called the macula. AMD causes problems with your central vision, but does not lead to total loss of sight and is not painful.
Age-related macular degeneration affects the vision you use when you're looking directly at something, for example when you're reading, looking at photos or watching television. AMD may make this central vision distorted or blurry and, over a period of time, it may cause a blank patch in the centre of your vision.
Symptoms vary from person to person, but usually the first problems people notice are with their ability to see detail. You may have problems reading small print, even if you wear your usual reading glasses, or you may find that there is a slight smudge in your sight or that your vision has a small blurred area in the centre.
Straight lines may look distorted or wavy or as if there's a little bump in them. You may also find you become sensitive to bright light or that you see shapes and lights that aren't actually there. Sometimes people may only notice these changes in one eye.
You should have your eyes tested by an optometrist (optician) if:
you notice any difficulty with reading small print with your reading glasses
straight lines start to look wavy or distorted
your vision isn't as clear as it used to be.
The exact cause for AMD is not known. Some things are thought to increase your chances of developing AMD:
Your age: Age-related macular degeneration develops as people grow older and is most often seen in people over the age of 65, although it can develop in people who are in their 40s and 50s.
Your gender: more women have AMD than men, probably because women tend to live longer than men.
Your genes: some genes have been identified which seem to be linked to the development of age-related macular degeneration in some people. This has been discovered by looking at families with more than one member who has AMD, but not all AMD is thought to be inherited.
Smoking: smoking greatly increases your risk of developing AMD. Studies also show that stopping smoking can reduce your risk of developing AMD.
Sunlight: some studies suggest that exposure to high levels of sunlight (particularly the UV light contained in sunlight) throughout your life may increase your risk of developing AMD. Wearing sunglasses to protect your eyes from the UV light in sunlight is a good idea for everyone throughout their life.
What you eat: a number of studies have looked at diet as a risk factor for someone developing AMD. At the moment there isn't agreement on how much of a risk factor diet is. There is some evidence that vitamins A, C and E and zinc may help to slow the progression of AMD in people who already have the condition. Unfortunately, because the exact cause of AMD is not known you may develop this condition even if you don't have any of these risk factors.
Prevention / Treatment
Although you cannot change your age or genes, current thinking is that protecting your eyes from the sun, eating a balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, and stopping smoking may all help to keep your eyes as healthy as possible.
A number of treatments are available for wet AMD. These mainly work by stopping the growth of new blood vessels. This means that treatments usually need to be given fairly quickly once the blood vessels start to grow in your eye. If the blood vessels are allowed to grow for too long the blood vessels may scar the retina and this scarring cannot be treated.
At the moment, there is no treatment for dry AMD. This is because dry AMD doesn't involve new blood vessels growing. Although research is continuing to find a treatment for dry AMD, nothing is available yet.
What do I do now?
Galloway’s promotes the importance of regular eye tests. Many conditions can be halted or improved with early detection and intervention. If you are worried you may have experienced the symptoms described, please contact your local optometrist and book an eye test without delay.
If you have been diagnosed with Age-related Macular Degeneration, there are many ways in which Galloway’s can help you and your loved ones come to terms with the diagnosis and can offer simple practical help with living with the diagnosis and coping with everyday life.