AMD (Age-related Macular Degeneration)
What is AMD?
AMD (Age-related Macular Degeneration) is a condition that can affect your eyes as you get older. In fact, in the over 50s, AMD is the leading cause of sight loss in Ireland, with over 7,000 new cases in Ireland every year. AMD affects the macula – a small part of the eye responsible for central vision which allows you to see detail. AMD usually starts in one eye and is highly likely to affect the other eye at a later stage. There are two types of AMD, dry AMD and wet AMD.
Dry AMD is the most common form of the condition and develops slowly, eventually leading to loss of central vision.
Wet AMD is caused by leaky blood vessels inside the eye. It is less common than dry AMD but it can cause more rapid loss of vision. It is responsible for 90% of cases of severe vision loss.2 The World Health Organization names AMD as one of the leading causes of sight loss in the developed world. It results in new, weak blood vessels growing behind the retina. These cause bleeding and sometimes scarring. The good news is that while wet AMD can develop quickly, in the majority of cases, if diagnosed and treated early, as much sight can be saved as possible and some people may even see an improvement.
It is common for patients to develop the more severe form of wet AMD after first developing dry AMD. What is more, AMD can develop in one eye first with no noticeable effects, as the second, good eye, compensates. Often, it is only when the second eye develops symptoms that a problem becomes apparent. This could be too late to treat the first eye. That is why, if you are over 50, the Association of Optometrists Ireland recommends that you have a comprehensive eye check every 2 years.
What Causes AMD?
The exact causes of AMD are still unknown. Although there can be a history of the condition in certain families, AMD is still not believed to be genetic. However, if close relatives have suffered with sight loss in the past, then it may be worth getting your eyes checked more regularly.
Studies have shown a definite link between smoking and AMD. Other factors such as high blood pressure and poor diet can also lead to a greater risk of getting AMD. Vitamins (C & E), beta-carotene, copper and zinc supplements in your diet, can help reduce the risk of developing AMD.
There are many risk factors for AMD, some out of your control, such as age, family history, race and gender. However, there are some steps you can take now to help protect your sight from AMD.
Studies have shown that if you smoke you are twice as likely to develop macular degeneration. Regular eye tests If you are aged 50 or over it is important that you go for regular eye tests for AMD. It is recommended that you go every two years. And, in particular, to make sure the back of your eye is checked. Regular tests are also essential for drivers, if your occupation depends on having good vision, and if you have certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, glaucoma or high blood pressure.
How AMD can affect your sight
AMD is progressive, it is also painless. While AMD may affect your detailed central vision, most people still retain useful side (or peripheral) vision.However if left untreated 17% of people will progress to advanced AMD within five years.
Key symptoms of AMD include:
- Distortion, where straight lines may appear wavy or bent. For example, tiles in the bathroom appear wavy
- Difficulty in reading or doing any other activity which requires fine vision
- Difficulty in distinguishing faces
- Dark patches or empty spaces, which appear in the centre of your vision
- The need for increased illumination, sensitivity to glare, decreased night vision and poor colour sensitivity