Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a very common, progressive eye condition that causes damage to the macula, a small spot near the center of the retina. The macula is the part of the eye that allows us to clearly see objects that are straight ahead. Did you know that AMD affects more than 10 million Americans? That’s why February is recognized as AMD and Low Vision Awareness month.
AMD has few symptoms in its early stages and could go unrecognized until progression or when it begins to affect both eyes. The first sign of AMD is usually distortion of straight lines. Additional symptoms include: distortion of the center of vision with dark, blurry, or “white out” areas, and diminished or changed color perception.
Types of AMD
There are two types of AMD: wet and dry. Dry AMD is the most common – affecting the majority of individuals with AMD.
Two things occur with dry AMD: a thinning of the tissues, plus the formation of small white or yellowish deposits, called ‘drusen,’ cause deterioration over time. All AMD actually begins as dry, and can eventually progress to wet.
Wet AMD affects fewer people, but accounts for the majority of all cases where severe vision loss occurs. In wet AMD, abnormal blood vessels underneath the retina begin to grow through the thin area toward the macula. These abnormal blood vessels usually break, bleed, and leak fluid. This damages the macula, causing it to lift up and pull away from the base, quickly resulting in severe loss of central vision.
What are the risk factors for AMD?
Risk factors we can control:
- Smoking: Smokers have two-to-three times higher risk for developing AMD than non-smokers
- Sunlight exposure: Blue wavelengths from the sun damage the macula
- Diet: Avoid overconsumption of processed foods and artificial fats
- Hypertension and high cholesterol
- Obesity: doubles the risk of developing AMD
Risk factors that are out of our control:
- Family history
- Race: Whites are more likely to develop AMD than African Americans or Hispanics and Latinos
- Genetic predisposition: May account for half the cases of AMD in the US
Although there is no cure, treatments are available for wet AMD and research is being done on treatments for dry AMD. In some patients, the disease advances so slowly that vision loss doesn’t occur for a long time, but in others the disease progresses so quickly that vision loss occurs in one or both eyes. How is AMD treated?
Routine comprehensive eye exams are absolutely critical for early detection of AMD! Schedule your complete and pain-free eye exam today by calling Illinois Eye Center at 309-243-2400.