Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of severe visual loss in people over 60. It is a painless eye disease usually associated with ageing in the eyes. AMD affects the central part of your vision, making it hard to see fine detail, such as when reading, writing, watching TV or recognising faces. However, AMD does not affect your peripheral (side) vision, so you can still see well enough to get around. There are two types of AMD – dry and wet.
Dry AMD is the most common form of macular degeneration. It is characterised by a breaking down of the delicate cells in the macula – the most central part of the retina at the back of the eye. Onset and progression is usually slow and gradual, taking place over a period of many years.
There is currently no treatment for dry AMD, but sufferers can be helped with the use of magnifiers and other low vision aids. Also, giving up smoking, eating a healthy diet and/or using nutritional supplements may help to stabilize or slow down the disease process.
Wet AMD occurs when tiny abnormal blood vessels begin to grow behind the macula. These vessels can leak blood or fluid causing damage to your vision. In contrast to dry AMD, the wet form often starts suddenly and progresses rapidly. There are treatments to stabilise some forms of wet AMD but they need to be given soon after the onset of symptoms. Treatment usually involves injecting a drug into the gel inside your eye to stop the growth and leakage of new blood vessels.
AMD is often associated with noticing distortion in your vision - making straight lines, such as door frames, appear bent or wavy. Also, you may become aware of a blank patch or blurred area in the middle of your vision. If you do notice any of the above symptoms you should get your eyes examined as a matter of urgency.
Reducing the risk
Although AMD is not preventable there are steps you can take to reduce your risk: