Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 15 March 2021
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Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a progressive eye condition that can lead to blindness. In people over the age of 60, it is the leading cause of serious, irreversible vision loss.
It occurs as the macula, the tiny central part of the retina, wears out. The retina is the back of the eye’s light-sensing nerve tissue.
Age-related macular degeneration is the name given to the condition when it occurs when people age. It rarely results in blindness, although it can cause significant vision issues.
Stargardt disease, also known as juvenile macular degeneration, is a form of macular degeneration that affects children and young adults.
Wet vs. Dry Macular Degeneration
There are two forms of age-related macular degeneration: age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and age-related macular degeneration (AMD
- Dry form
The macula of people with the disorder may have yellow deposits called drusen. A few tiny drusen do not affect your vision. However, when they grow in size and number, they can dim or blur your vision, particularly when reading. The light-sensitive cells in your macula get smaller and gradually die as the disease worsens. You may have blind spots in the centre in the atrophic type. You may lose central vision as this worsens.
- Wet form
Behind the macula, blood vessels grow. Blood and fluid leak through the retina via these blood vessels. Straight lines seem wavy when the vision is blurred. Blind spots and a lack of central vision are also possible. The bleeding from these blood vessels gradually forms a scar, resulting in irreversible loss of central vision.
The dry form of macular degeneration affects the majority of people, but it can also contribute to the wet form. The wet type of macular degeneration affects just about 10% of individuals with the disease.
If you have macular degeneration, you can keep a close watch on your vision and visit your eye doctor on a regular basis.
Symptoms of Macular Degeneration
You do not experience the symptoms of macular degeneration at all. It can not be diagnosed until it has advanced to the point that both eyes are affected.
Macular degeneration can cause the following symptoms:
- Vision that is blurry or hazy. It’s possible that your vision is distorted, making it difficult to read fine print or move.
- Around the middle of your vision, there are dark, fuzzy patches.
- Color vision can be bad or different in rare cases.
If you have some of these signs, make an appointment with an eye doctor as soon as possible.
Causes of Macular Degeneration
Macular degeneration caused by age is more frequent in the elderly. It is the most common cause of serious vision loss in people above the age of 60.
It’s likely that the genes play a part in macular degeneration. Your chance will be raised if anyone in your family gets it.
Smoking, having high blood pressure or cholesterol, obesity, eating a lot of saturated fat, being fair-skinned, female, and having light-colored eyes are all risk factors.
How Is Macular Degeneration Diagnosed?
Age-related macular degeneration may be observed during a normal eye test. Drusen (tiny yellow spots under the retina) or pigment clumping is one of the most frequent early symptoms. When the doctor checks your pupils, they will find these.
Your doctor might also ask you to look at an Amsler grid, which is a checkerboard-like pattern of straight lines. You may note that some of the straight lines are wavy, or that some of the lines are absent. These symptoms may indicate macular degeneration.
If your doctor suspects age-related macular degeneration, you can undergo an angiography or an optical coherence tomography (OCT) treatment. Angiography is a procedure in which a doctor injects dye into a vein in your arm. When the dye passes into the blood vessels, they take photos of your retina.
The images will display the precise location and type of new veins or vessels leaking fluid or blood in your macula. OCT can see fluid or blood under the retina without the use of dye.
It’s important to visit the eye doctor on a regular basis if you want to detect symptoms of macular degeneration early. Treatment may help to delay the progression of the disease or make it less serious.
What Treatments Are Available for Macular Degeneration?
Macular degeneration has no known treatment. Treatment can help you from losing too much vision or slow it down. Among the options are:
- Anti-angiogenesis drugs. Aflibercept, bevacizumab, pegaptanib, and ranibizumab are drugs that stop blood vessels from forming and leakage in your eye, causing wet macular degeneration. Many patients who take these medications were able to regain vision that had already been lost. It’s possible that you’ll require this medication many times.
- Laser therapy. Abnormal blood vessels developing in your eye can be damaged by high-energy laser light.
- Photodynamic laser therapy. Your doctor injects verteporfin, a light-sensitive substance, into the body, which is absorbed by the abnormal blood vessels. The drug is then activated by the doctor shining a laser into the eye, causing the blood vessels to be damaged.
- Low vision aids. There are instruments that use special lenses or mechanical structures to magnify photographs of objects in the immediate vicinity. They support individuals with macular degeneration with getting the most of their remaining vision.
New therapies for macular degeneration are being investigated by researchers, but they are only in the experimental stage. They are as follows:
- Submacular surgery. This procedure involves the removal of irregular blood vessels or blood.
- Retinal translocation. A treatment to dissolve abnormal blood vessels under the macula’s heart, where the doctor can’t reliably use a laser beam. Your doctor will move the middle of your macula away from the abnormal blood vessels and into a healthier part of your retina during this operation. This prevents scar tissue from forming causing any damage to the retina. The abnormal blood vessel is then treated with a laser by your doctor.
A major study found that taking supplements of vitamins C and E, lutein, zeaxanthin, zinc, and copper could benefit people with dry AMD. Consult the doctor to see if these supplements will benefit you.
Age-related macular degeneration allows only a small number of individuals to lose their vision entirely. Their central vision can be impaired, but they are also capable of doing certain everyday tasks.
The dry phase of age-related macular degeneration progresses slowly, allowing you to maintain the majority of your vision.
The wet type of macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss that is permanent. If it affects your eyes, it may have a negative impact on the quality of life.
Treatments for wet macular degeneration may be needed on a regular basis. Regularly test your vision and listen to your doctor’s recommendations.
Referenced on 2.3.2021:
- National Eye Institute.
- American Academy of Ophthalmology.
- National Institutes of Health: “NIH study provides clarity on supplements for protection against blinding eye disease."
- American Academy of Ophthalmology: “What Is Stargardt Disease?” “How is AMD Diagnosed and Treated?”