Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is an eye condition that causes the loss of central vision. It can affect one or both eyes and is more common in elderly people, but symptoms can appear around the age of 50.

In this article we'll tell you more about AMD, how it can affect the eyes and what you can do to make living with this condition easier. 

AMD affects a small part of the eye called the macula, which is located within the retina, at the back of the eye. It's responsible for our central vision and most of our colour vision, but it also makes us able to appreciate finer details. With age, the macula deteriorates, causing this loss of central vision. It's important to note that AMD doesn't cause blindness or a complete loss of sight, as peripheral vision (edges) is not affected. The condition is also painless and doesn't affect the way our eyes look. However, experiencing AMD can still be distressing, as it makes it more difficult to carry out daily activities and recognise faces.

There are two types of AMD:

Dry AMD
Wet AMD

It's the most common form, affects around 90% of people with AMD.

It's a much less common form of the disease. 

Gradual onset, can develop over months but, more usually, years. It can develop very quickly, sometimes weeks or days.

Occurs when waste products are not properly carried away from the macula, resulting in the accumulation of yellow fatty deposits called drusen.

Occurs when abnormal blood vessels begin to grow in or under the macula. These then leak blood and fluid which damages the macula.

There is no current treatment, but the right tools and support can help make life with AMD easier.

Can result in a more severe loss of central vision, but a quick detection and treatment can help.

 

Symptoms of AMD

Both types of AMD display the same symptoms. As we said, this condition causes loss of central vision, and this means that:

(Vision without AMD)

(Vision with AMD)

(Vision on late stages of AMD)

  • Dark spots may appear in the centre of the visual field.
  • Objects directly in front may appear to change size, shape or colour or seem to move or disappear.
  • Vision might become blurry and lines may appear distorted.

(Image: Without AMD on left, With AMD on Right)

 

  • When reading, words might seem to disappear.
  • Bright light might be uncomfortable or there might be a difficulty when moving from dark or dimly lit places into brightly illuminated ones.
  • Colours might seem faded.

    Causes of AMD

    The cause of AMD is not yet known, but here are several factors that have been linked to it:

    • Age is the main risk factor. As cells stop regenerating, the risk of developing AMD increases.
    • Diets high in cholesterol and fat with low intake of fruits and vegetables. These contain nutrients needed for the correct function of the retina.
    • High blood pressure. 
    • Smoking, which damages blood vessels and the structure of the eye.
    • Excessive exposition to sunlight and harmful UV light.
    • Genetics. Some families have a history and greater tendency for the condition.

      Testing and Treating AMD

      Using the Amsler grid you can test yourself at home to check for any distortions or abnormalities in your vision.

      This is how to use it:

      • Hold the grid at normal reading distance using your reading glasses if you have them.
      • Cover one eye and look at the black dot in the centre.
      • Whilst looking at this central spot, see if all the lines appear straight and even. Check that none are wavy, distorted or missing.
      • Then cover your other eye and repeat.Amsler Grid

      This test can give an indication but is not a substitute for a full eye examination, which you should have to check your vision at least every 2 years. If you notice any changes in your vision you should consult your optician or optometrist straight away.

      AMD can be detected in eye tests performed by an optometrist. They'll normally use a magnifying glass with a light to check the vision, and might put drops in the eyes to be able to spot any problems more easily. If you are diagnosed with AMD, the optometrist will tell you more about the condition and talk you through the treatment options.

      • Wet AMD might need regular eye injections with medicine to stop abnormal blood vessels from growing. Rarely, when people don't respond to the injections, they might be offered a kind of laser treatment called "photodynamic therapy" to stop vision from getting worse.
      • Dry AMD has currently no treatment. However, the appropiate support and the right tools, such as vision aids, can help you improve your quality of life.

      Making Life with AMD Easier

      • Use glasses with filters that block UV and blue light.
      • Use low vision aids, such as magnifiers 
      • Improve the lighting in your home and make sure you keep regular levels of lighting in your house to stop your eyes from having to adapt to changing light conditions.
      • When reading, choose large print books or magazines. If you read in a Kindle or tablet, you can select to display the text in a bigger font. You can also opt for audio books.
      • Select appliances and devices that "speak" or emit sound or that have "bumpy" surfaces to help you find settings and use them.
      • Use products with large numbers and print, such as watches and clocks with a large face or a telephone with a big keypad.
      • Computers and some phones can read text to you as speech, use this feature.

      We hope you have found this article useful, but if you wish to learn more, we recommend you visit the following websites, as they contain lots of useful information about AMD.

      The Macular Society page for AMD

      The NHS page for AMD


      Low Vision Aids, Lighting and Technology

      A number of tools and devices can help people with Age Related Macular Degeneration carry out daily activities and maintain their independence. Low Vision Aids can be helpful for many daily tasks and range from simple Magnifying Glasses with Lights to Electronic and Video Magnifiers.