Trouble with your vision? It could be AMD
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a painless eye condition that generally leads to the gradual loss of central vision but can sometimes cause a rapid reduction in vision.
Central vision is used to see what is directly in front of you. In AMD, your central vision becomes increasingly blur-red, leading to symptoms such as difficulty reading because the text appears blurry, colours appearing less vibrant and/or difficulty recognising people’s faces.
AMD usually affects both eyes but the speed at which it progresses can vary from eye to eye.
AMD does not affect the peripheral vision (outer vision), which means it will not cause complete blindness.
If you notice that your vision is getting gradually worse, you should see your eye doctor. The same is true if your vision suddenly gets worse, images are distorted or you notice blind spots in your field of vision.
Why it happens
Macular degeneration develops when the macula (the part of the eye responsible for central vision) is unable to function as effectively as it used to. There are two main types of AMD, called ‘dry AMD’ and ‘wet AMD’.
Dry AMD develops when the cells of the macula become damaged as a result of a build-up of waste products called drusen. It is the most common and least serious type of AMD, accounting for around nine out of 10 cases.
The loss of vision is gradual, occurring over many years. However, an estimated one in 10 people with dry AMD will then go on to develop wet AMD.
Wet AMD develops when abnormal blood vessels form underneath the macula and damage its cells (doctors sometimes refer to wet AMD as neovascular AMD).
Wet AMD is more serious and without treatment, vision can deteriorate within days.
Who is affected
For reasons that are unclear, AMD tends to be more common in women than men. It is also more common in white people and people of Chinese ethnicity than people from other ethnic groups.
As would be expected by its name, age is one of the most important risk factors for AMD. The condition is most common in people over 50 and it’s estimated that one in every 10 people over 65 have some degree of AMD.
How AMD is treated
There is currently no cure for either type of AMD.
With dry AMD, treatment is mostly based on helping a person make the most of their remaining vision, such as using magnifying lenses to help make reading easier.
There is also some evidence to suggest that a diet rich in green leafy vegetables may slow the progression of dry AMD.
Wet AMD can be treated with a type of medication called anti-VEGF medication, which aims to stop your vision getting worse by helping prevent further blood vessels developing. In some cases laser surgery can also be used to destroy abnormal blood vessels.
Early diagnosis and treatment of wet AMD is essential in reducing the risk of severe loss of vision, so again, it is so important to visit your eye doctor as a matter of urgency.
It is not always possible to prevent macular degeneration as it is not clear exactly what triggers the processes that cause the condition.
Your risk of developing the condition is also closely linked to things such as your age and whether you have a family history of the condition.
However, you may be able to reduce your risk of developing AMD, or help prevent it getting worse, by stopping smoking if you smoke, eating a healthy diet high with plenty of fruit and vegetables, moderating your consumption of alcohol, trying to achieve or maintain a healthy weight an d wearing UV-absorbing glasses when outside for long periods.
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