Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a permanent and irreversible eye condition. Once contracted, your central vision will become increasingly blurry and distorted. In rare cases, you may even develop permanent blind spots.
AMD is almost certain to pose a challenge to your daily life. However, treatments that can curtail the disease’s progression do exist. This speaks to the importance of understanding its symptoms and detecting it as early as possible.
See what you can do to recognize the early signs of AMD and regulate it before it takes most of your eyesight away.
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What Is Age-Related Macular Degeneration?
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye condition in which the macula, the part of the retina responsible for clear central vision, deteriorates. The damaged macula causes central vision loss, making what you see in front of you blurry or distorted.
In 10% of the cases, AMD progresses from dry to wet. Wet AMD is characterized by the formation of new blood vessels (neovascularization) under the retina and the macula. These blood vessels tend to leak, causing permanent blind spots in your central vision.
Given AMD’s potential to irreversibly degenerate into wet AMD, this condition, which affects 2 million Canadians, needs to be detected as early as possible. For that purpose, recognizing the symptoms of AMD and scheduling regular eye exams are crucial.
My Optometrist Calgary has experience detecting AMD and helping senior Calgarians manage this disease.
How To Recognize Age-Related Macular Degeneration?
One thing is clear: the most effective way to diagnose AMD is through routine eye exams. If you are a senior over 60 years of age (and therefore susceptible to AMD), you should ideally have an optometrist thoroughly examine your eyes at least once per year.
However, if you have not visited your eye doctor in a while and are experiencing these 5 symptoms, you may be afflicted with AMD.
- Poor central vision: What you see in front of you appears blurry.
- Visual distortions: Even straight lines may seem bent to you.
- Reliance on brighter lighting: You cannot read or work in faint lighting anymore.
- Insensitivity to colours: Bright colours no longer appear vibrant to you.
- A blind spot: Severe wet AMD can cause a permanent blind spot in the centre of your field of vision.
The combined symptoms of AMD can make daily life a struggle. You may have difficulties recognizing people, adapting to low light levels, and reading your favourite books.
It is worth repeating that relying on symptoms to diagnose AMD is never as effective as completing an eye exam. AMD can affect one eye only, making the symptoms difficult to detect as your other eye will compensate for the vision loss.
Treatments for Age-Related Macular Degeneration
While no miracle cure for AMD exists, certain treatments can be effective at slowing down the progression of the disease.
- Dry AMD: Short of preventative measures, options are limited for treating dry AMD. Most doctors recommend low vision rehabilitation to help you adapt to your loss of central vision.
A more radical solution for people with both eyes affected by AMD involves surgically planting a telescopic lens in one of the eyes. The lens essentially acts like a miniature telescope, magnifying the patient’s central vision to compensate for AMD. The result is that the patient will have one eye for central vision and another for peripheral vision.
- Wet AMD: Like dry AMD, wet AMD has no known cure. Treatments usually focus on adapting to the vision loss and on stopping the growth of new blood vessels under the retina and macula.
A wide array of drugs and laser therapies can prevent new blood vessels from forming or destroy them outright. These measures can stall the condition from getting worse but will not restore your eyesight.
Finally, certain vitamins can slow down moderate cases of AMD. Research has shown that a daily multivitamin supplement reduced the chance of intermediate AMD progressing to advanced AMD by 25% to 30%.* It also reduced the risk of vision loss by 19%.
This multivitamin formula includes:
- 500 milligrams of vitamin C
- 400 international units of vitamin E
- 80 milligrams of zinc
- 15 milligrams of beta carotene
- 2 milligrams of copper
Manage Your Age-Related Macular Degeneration Before It Is Too Late
Dealing with AMD could be one of your toughest challenges yet. That is why you must take measures to abate its progression before your central vision is completely lost for good.
Visit your optometrist at least once every year so that AMD and other equally damaging eye conditions do not go under the radar. We at Optometrist Calgary may not cure your AMD outright, but we can certainly help you cope with it.
*National Eye Institute Age-Related Eye Disease Studies (AREDS/AREDS2): major findings
Q: Does AMD cause total blindness?
A: No. AMD in both its forms only affects your central vision, so you will never be totally blind. However, losing your central vision permanently disqualifies you from participating in routine activities, such as reading and driving.
Q: Is AMD painful?
A: No. AMD does not cause any pain as it progresses.
Q: How can I prevent AMD?
A: Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help reduce your chances of contracting AMD as you age. This includes:
- Not smoking
- Eating a healthy diet
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Exercising frequently