Age-related macular degeneration

Published in For the Health of It Author: Jeffrey Pearson, OD

CentraCare Eye Clinic

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of severe vision loss in adults over 50. AMD affects about 1.8 million people according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What is AMD?
AMD happens when the center of the retina — called the macula — is damaged. Over time it becomes increasingly difficult to see fine details — whether you are looking at something close or far away. Only central vision is affected by AMD. Peripheral (side) vision will still be normal. For instance, imagine you are looking at a person’s face. With AMD, you might see the person’s hair but not their facial features.

What is dry AMD?
Dry AMD is when parts of the macula get thinner with age and tiny clumps of protein called drusen grow. You slowly lose central vision. Unfortunately, there is no way to treat dry AMD yet. About 80 percent of people who have AMD have the dry form.

What is wet AMD?
Wet AMD is when new, abnormal blood vessels grow under the retina. These vessels may leak blood or other fluids causing scarring of the macula. You lose vision faster with wet AMD than with dry AMD. Many people don’t realize they have AMD until their vision is very blurry. If detected early, wet AMD can be treated with anti-VEGF injections.

Symptoms of AMD
If you experience any of the symptoms below, contact your optometrist or ophthalmologist immediately for a comprehensive eye examination.

  • Gradual loss of ability to see objects clearly.
  • Shape of objects appears distorted.
  • Straight lines look wavy or crooked.
  • Loss of clear color vision.
  • A dark or empty area in the center of vision.

Central vision that is lost to macular degeneration cannot be restored. However, low-vision devices such as telescopic or microscopic lenses may help maximize existing vision.

What are the risks for AMD?
You are more likely to develop AMD if you:

  • Eat a diet high in saturated fat (found in foods like meat, butter, and cheese)
  • Are overweight
  • Smoke cigarettes
  • Are over 50 years old
  • Have a family history of AMD
  • Are Caucasian (white)
  • Are a woman
  • Have heart disease

The best way to catch eye diseases early is to have regular visits with your ophthalmologist or optometrist including a comprehensive, dilated eye exam.