What is Age Related Macular Degeneration?

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye disease that causes central vision to become blurry. It happens when the macula, the part of the eye that controls sharp, straight-ahead vision, deteriorates with age. The macula is a component of the retina (the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye). AMD is a common condition that is a leading cause of vision loss in elderly people. Although AMD does not cause total blindness, it can make it difficult to see faces, read, drive, or do close-up work such as cooking or housework. AMD develops slowly in some people and quickly in others. You may not notice vision loss if you have early AMD for a long time. That is why it is critical to have regular eye exams to determine if you are at risk for age related macular degeneration.

What Are AMD’s Types and Stages?

AMD is classified into two types: dry and wet.The majority of AMD patients have dry AMD (also called atrophic AMD). This is the process by which the macula thins with age. Dry AMD manifests itself in three stages: early, intermediate, and late. It usually takes several years to complete. There is no cure for late dry AMD, but you can make the most of your remaining vision. You can also protect your other eye if you have late dry AMD in only one eye. Wet AMD (also known as advanced neovascular AMD) is a less common type of late AMD that causes more rapid vision loss. Wet AMD can develop at any stage of dry AMD, but it is always late stage. It occurs when abnormal blood vessels develop in the back of the eye, causing damage to the macula. The good news is that there are treatment options for wet AMD.

Does AMD Have Symptoms?

The symptoms of AMD vary according to the stage. Dry AMD manifests itself in three stages: early, intermediate, and late. AMD is a progressive disease, which means that symptoms typically worsen over time.

  • Early dry AMD produces no symptoms.
  • Some people with intermediate dry AMD have no symptoms. Others may experience mild symptoms such as mild blurriness in their central vision or difficulty seeing in low light.
  • Many people who have late AMD (wet or dry type) notice that straight lines become wavy or crooked. A blurry area near the center of your vision is also possible. This blurry area may grow larger over time, or you may notice blank spots.Colors may appear less vibrant than before, and you may have difficulty seeing in low lighting.

Straight lines that appear wavy are a sign of late AMD. If you notice this symptom, make an appointment with your eye doctor right away.

So, are YOU at Risk for Age Related Macular Degeneration?

As you get older, your chances of developing AMD rise. AMD is more common in people over the age of 55 and more more likely in people:

  • if you have a family history of AMD
  • if you are Caucasian
  • if you smoke nicotine

If you are at risk for AMD due to your age, family history, or other factors, it is critical that you have regular eye exams. Inquire with your doctor about how frequently you should have your eyes examined. Early AMD has no symptoms, so don’t wait for it to affect your vision!

Join us next week for ways to lower your risk for Age Related Macular Degeneration!

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Source: nei.nih.gov

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