What is Age Related Macular Degeneration?
Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is a condition that affects the central part of your vision. It is caused by damage to the macular region of the eye, which is the part of the retina that provides detailed, central vision.
Age-related macular degeneration is the most common cause of visual loss in the UK affecting older people. Some types of AMD need to be treated quickly, so it’s important to see your optometrist urgently if you notice any sudden change in your vision.
There are two main types of AMD – dry and wet. Dry AMD, sometimes referred to as wear and tear. This form of AMD usually develops slowly. To begin with, dry AMD may have little effect on your vision. If the disease develops, your central vision may gradually become more blurred and it may become difficult to recognise faces and read things directly in front of you.
Wet AMD happens when new blood vessels grow behind the macula. These blood vessels can begin to leak and this can damage the cells in the macular region and stop them from working. This process can start very suddenly.
Wet AMD will normally cause distorted vision, with straight lines and edges such as door frames becoming wavy and distorted. Some people also see a sudden blank spot in their central vision. Sometimes these changes can happen quickly, so it’s important to see your optometrist urgently if you notice any sudden change in your vision.
The risk of developing AMD goes up if you are:
- Over 65
- A Smoker. Stopping smoking is the greatest change you can make to protect yourself from AMD.
- If you have a close relative with AMD, your risk of developing the condition is higher.
- If you already have AMD in the other eye.
Ultraviolet light may also increase the risk of AMD so it’s a good idea to wear glasses that block or absorb UV light.
At the moment, there is no effective treatment for dry AMD, but it may be possible to see better with the help of special magnifiers and good lighting. Advice from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) states that patients with dry AMD should not normally be referred to the hospital eye service, but should continue to regularly see their optometrist to monitor the condition. If you have dry AMD, you should also take steps to monitor your own vision and can use an Amsler chart to do this.
Dry AMD can turn into to Wet AMD therefore it is important to monitor your vision regularly and see your Optometrist should you notice any changes to your vision.
Wet AMD can often be treated with injections into the eye, as long as it is diagnosed quickly. The injections work by stopping the growth of new blood vessels and can help to save your vision and reduce the risk of the disease getting any worse. If you notice any recent change in symptoms, you should contact your optometrist immediately. They will arrange for you to be seen by the hospital eye service.
Living with AMD
If your vision is affected due to AMD, your optometrist can advise you on steps you can take to help you in your daily life. This may include referring you to a clinic which can offer help in the form of magnifiers or putting you in touch with local support groups. You may be advised to register your sight loss with your local authority.
If you have lost vision through AMD, you may experience visual hallucinations. This is known as Charles Bonnet Syndrome. Many patients find it reassuring to know that this is a common experience after losing vision, and although it can be quite upsetting, it is unlikely to be a sign of mental illness. If you experience visual hallucinations, you may want to discuss it with your eye care practitioner.
If you drive, you should discuss your eyesight with your optometrist.
Our OCT scanner can help detect AMD and help detect if the Dry AMD has advanced to Wet AMD. For an OCT assessment please call us to book your eyehealth appointment.
Nutrition and Lifestyle
Macula degeneration is a leading cause of vision loss with over 3 million people affected in the UK.
The exact cause is unclear but can be related to environmental and genetic factors with smoking a major risk factor.
A major American research study the AREDS2 indicates that high levels of Oxadative stress occur in most cases of macula degeneration.
Their findings suggest that people over 50 years would benefit from a full retinal examination to detect early changes within the retina, and those with early AMD signs be given antioxidant supplements.
Your Optometrist will advise you what type and formulation and instruct you on the best dietary advice.
Typically a diet rich in green leafy vegetable such as kale, broccoli and spinach are recommended.
Red peppers and brightly coloured fruits are examples of foods that contain high levels of antioxidants.
Learn more about AMD protection: National Eye Institute AREDS Study
Blenkinsop Optometry offer advanced retinal scanning as a supplementary examination. please call us to book your retinal scan.