Everything You Need to Know About Age-Related Macular Degeneration
The American Academy of Ophthalmology recognizes the month of February as Age-Related Macular Degeneration Awareness Month. Also called simply macular degeneration or AMD, this condition is the nation’s leading cause of vision loss. For this reason, we feel like it’s important to shine a spotlight on this sight-stealing condition, what to look for if you think you might have AMD and offer insights into how to prevent or stop the progression of macular degeneration, as well as ways to cope with low vision.
What is Age-Related Macular Degeneration?
AMD is a deterioration of the eye’s macula, which is the central part of the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye called the retina. The macula is much more light-sensitive than the rest of the retina and helps the eye focus in fine detail, such as the ability to recognize faces, read fine print, read street signs, etc. Since the macula is only a small part of the retina, degeneration in this area does not usually affect peripheral vision.
What Causes AMD?
In AMD, as the macular tissue ages, it tends to thin out. Tiny pieces of a fatty protein called drusen start to accumulate under the retina. Eventually, the macula stops functioning properly and the light signals the retina sends to the brain via the optic nerve become distorted. At this stage, central vision starts to worsen and may eventually disappear.
Is There More Than One Type of AMD?
There are two forms of AMD, “dry” and “wet.” Most people with AMD have the dry form. With dry AMD, vision loss usually progresses more slowly. When dry AMD is diagnosed in early stages, an ophthalmologist will see a build-up of medium-sized drusen behind your retina. As the disease progresses and your central vision diminishes, the drusen become larger and there may also be pigment changes in the retina. In late dry AMD, the actual light-sensing cells start to break down so they can no longer convey visual information to the brain. When diagnosed with dry AMD, it is critical to keep a regular appointment with your Mann Eye ophthalmologist because dry AMD can develop into the more damaging form called wet macular degeneration.
Wet AMD is diagnosed when there is a growth of abnormal blood vessels underneath the retina. These blood vessels may leak fluid and blood, further distorting your vision. This process can happen faster and cause more noticeable changes than the dry form.
What are the Symptoms of AMD?
If you suspect AMD, here are some things to look for:
- Blurry distance and/or reading vision
- Need for increasingly bright light to see up close
- Colors appear less vivid or bright
- Difficulty seeing when going from bright light to low light (such as entering a dimly-lit room from the bright outdoors)
- Blurred central vision
One or both eyes can be affected. It is not uncommon for vision loss in one eye to be missed because the other eye compensates, making vision loss virtually unnoticeable.
- Distorted vision — straight lines appear bent, crooked or irregular
- Dark gray spots or blank spots in your vision
- Loss of central vision
- Size of objects may appear different for each eye
- Colors lose their brightness or do not look the same for each eye
- Trouble or inability to recognize faces
Symptoms of wet AMD typically appear and progress more quickly.
How is AMD Diagnosed?
Early and intermediate stages of AMD usually start with no symptoms. The only way to detect AMD is to have a comprehensive eye exam, which, at Mann Eye Institute, is no typical eye screening.
During your comprehensive eye exam, we will do so much more than determine your prescription for eyeglasses or contact lenses. We will also check your eyes for any eye disease, assess how your eyes work together as a team and evaluate your eyes as an indicator of your overall health. A comprehensive eye exam also includes a number of diagnostic tests and procedures that will examine and evaluate the health of your eyes and the quality of your vision. Dilation of your pupils is recommended for a comprehensive exam.
Tests range from simple ones, like having you read an eye chart, to complex tests, such as using a high-powered lens to examine the health of the tissues inside of your eyes or a laser to scan your retina.
At Mann Eye Institute, your comprehensive eye exam will include:
- visual acuity test to measure how sharp your vision is
- motility exam to see how well your eyes work together and to rule out strabismus (crossed eyes)
- refraction to determine your best-corrected vision prescription
- tests to assess your risk for developing glaucoma
- pupil dilation to help detect cataracts, macular degeneration and other serious eye conditions
At Mann Eye Institute, we want our patients to enjoy living their lives at the highest level while managing any eye diseases. We have deep experience in the diagnosis and management of AMD so that every patient we serve can See Life Better. Schedule a comprehensive eye exam at Mann Eye Institute today to protect your precious eyes.