Age is Not Your Only Risk
February is Age-Related Macular Degeneration Awareness Month. Also called macular degeneration or AMD, this eye disease is the leading cause of vision loss in older adults. This month especially, it’s important to shine a spotlight on this sight-stealing condition, so you can know what to look for if you think you might have AMD.
What is Age-Related Macular Degeneration?
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) causes central vision loss. AMD impacts more than 11 million people in the U.S. alone.
Specifically, AMD is a deterioration of the eye’s macula, which is the central part of the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. The macula is much more light-sensitive than the rest of the retina and helps the eye focus on fine detail. Since the macula is only a small part of the retina, degeneration in this area does not usually affect peripheral vision. That means it doesn’t affect your vision on the side (periphery), only the vision in the center (where you are looking directly).
There are two types of AMD, “dry” and “wet.” The dry form is more common. With dry AMD, vision loss usually progresses slowly. When we diagnose dry AMD in its early stages, it’s because we see a build-up of medium-sized drusen behind your retina. As the disease progresses, there may also be pigment changes in the retina. This causes the central vision to decline. In the late stages of dry AMD, the light-sensing cells break down so they can no longer convey critical visual information to the brain.
If you have dry AMD, it is critical to keep regular appointments with your Mann Eye ophthalmologist because dry AMD can sneakily develop into the more damaging form called wet AMD.
Wet AMD is less common but much more serious than its dry counterpart. Wet AMD occurs when new, abnormal blood vessels grow under the retina. These vessels may leak blood or other fluids, causing scarring of the macula.
What are the Symptoms of AMD?
If you suspect AMD, there are some things to be on the lookout for:
- Blurred central vision
- Blurry distance and/or near vision
- Need for bright light to see up close
- Colors appear less vivid or bright
- Difficulty seeing when going from bright light to low light
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 the 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 don’t look the same for each eye
- Trouble recognizing faces
Symptoms of wet AMD typically appear and progress more quickly.
How Will I Know if I am at Risk for Macular Degeneration?
As the name suggests, older people are more at risk for developing AMD. Other risk factors for developing AMD include diets high in saturated fats, obesity, high blood pressure and smoking. There is a hereditary element as well.
How is AMD Diagnosed?
The early and intermediate stages of AMD typically don’t have symptoms. Therefore, the only way to detect the condition is with a comprehensive eye exam. During your comprehensive eye exam at Mann Eye Institute, we do so much more than determine your prescription for eyeglasses or contact lenses. We 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. Additionally, we recommend dilation of your pupils for a comprehensive exam.
Treatment and Prevention of Macular Degeneration
A unique multivitamin called AREDS2 has been shown to slow the progression of dry AMD but does not prevent you from acquiring the disease and should only be taken if recommended by your eye doctor.
To help treat wet AMD, there are medications called anti-VEGF medications. They are designed to shrink abnormal blood vessels in the retina and also decrease retinal swelling. In certain people, treatment with anti-VEGF will improve vision.
For prevention, eat a diet full of green, leafy vegetables and wear UV-blocking sunglasses while outdoors. It’s essential to have regular eye exams as AMD can be present for a long time without symptoms.
Trust a Retina Specialist
Regular exams with your Mann Eye retina specialist Dr. Mohsenin are the best way to make sure your AMD is monitored and controlled. If you have already been diagnosed with AMD, you will be happy to know that Dr. Mohsenin has a particular passion for the condition. In his previous role as a medical school professor, Dr. Mohsenin directed an NIH-funded research laboratory dedicated to macular degeneration research. His Ph.D. training in biochemistry and molecular biology coupled with his understanding of AMD at the molecular level gives him a perspective not commonly seen in retina specialists.
At Mann Eye Institute, we want our patients to enjoy living their lives at the highest level while managing eye disease. 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.