February is Low Vision and Age-Related Macular Degeneration Month. Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of severe vision loss among adults 50 and older, and worse, as many as 78% of people with AMD already suffer from irreversible vision loss by the time they seek treatment. That makes spreading awareness about this disease particularly important, given how many people affected by it don’t know that they have it, causing them to miss out on key preventative care.

What Is Age-Related Macular Degeneration?

Age-related macular degeneration, also known as AMD, is an incurable eye disease that affects the macula, a part of the eye that is small, sensitive, and sits near the center of the retina. Moreover, the macula is the part of the eye that is responsible for creating a sharp, clear central field of vision. However, when the macula is damaged, that central field of vision may appear blurry, distorted, or dark.

There are two kinds of macular degeneration: wet and dry. 

  1. Wet macular degeneration occurs when abnormal blood vessels form in the back of the eye, damaging the macula; this type tends to cause faster vision loss than its counterpart. 
  2. Dry macular degeneration, however, is more common, making up 70% to 80% of AMD cases, and occurs as the macula gets thinner with age. The exact cause is not known, but it is believed that both genetic and environmental factors contribute to it. Typically, this kind of AMD progresses slowly over several years.

Does AMD Have Symptoms?

AMD presents with different symptoms depending on how advanced the case is. For instance, while early stages of dry AMD typically do not cause any symptoms, intermediate dry AMD can cause mild symptoms, like some blurriness in a person’s central vision or difficulty seeing in low light. Late AMD, however, whether wet or dry, causes more significant vision problems. People with late AMD report developing a blurry or distorted area in their central vision, which often grows. Blank spots may also form in their field of vision, colors may seem less bright than before, and straight lines looking wavy is a warning sign for late AMD. 

It’s worth noting that while AMD alone does not lead to total vision loss, it can interfere with a person’s ability to go about their day-to-day activities. As AMD progresses, a person may lose their ability to see faces, drive themselves, read, write, cook, or fix things around the house. While these issues cannot be fixed, if caught early enough, the progression of AMD can be slowed down.

How To Diagnose AMD?

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) can be diagnosed through various methods, including visual acuity tests, dilated eye exams, fundus photography, optical coherence tomography (OCT), fluorescein angiography, and the Amsler grid test. Timely detection through regular eye exams is of utmost importance in identifying AMD at an early stage.

What Are The Risk Factors Of Amd?

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is influenced by several risk factors. These include age, smoking, family history, gender, race, prolonged sun exposure, diet, and obesity.

How Is AMD Treated?

Because there is no cure for AMD, treatment is focused on slowing down the progression of the disease and supporting healthy vision. Treatment also depends on what type of AMD a patient has, as well as how advanced their condition is.

Our ophthalmologists work with our patients to help them make lifestyle changes that can help prevent future vision loss. For instance, smokers are more likely to develop macular degeneration than nonsmokers. Smoking doubles a person’s risk of developing AMD and also quickens its progression, so it’s always recommended that a patient quit smoking—or never start! On top of that, eating leafy greens, taking vitamins, and wearing sunglasses can also slow the development of AMD, as can maintaining a healthy weight and blood pressure.

In addition, patients with wet AMD may be given injections or be treated with laser therapy to destroy the abnormal blood vessels causing the disease.

How Can I Prevent AMD?

For many people, the exact cause of their AMD is unknown, but it most often happens as a person gets older, and it may also be influenced by environmental or genetic factors. For instance, people with a family history of AMD are at a higher risk of developing the disease, as are people with light-colored eyes, and it’s also more common among Caucasians than people of other races.

While nothing can fully prevent AMD, the most important step you can take is getting regular eye exams. Early detection is key to treating AMD and minimizing damage. Plus, annual exams allow your eye doctor a chance to check for not only AMD, but also other eye diseases that would otherwise go unnoticed.

Take Control Of Your Eye Health

When it comes to your vision health, you can trust the experienced ophthalmologists at Everett & Hurite. Our team of highly skilled specialists is dedicated to providing exceptional care and personalized treatment options for patients with AMD. We have the knowledge, expertise, and experience to guide you through your AMD journey, from diagnosis to treatment and ongoing management.

Our ophthalmologists at Everett & Hurite have the education, expertise, and experience to help you with all your vision needs. Schedule an appointment online at one of our 10 locations, or call (412) 288-0858 for more information.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there any advancements in treatment for AMD?

Researchers continue to explore new treatments and therapies for AMD. Some promising areas of investigation include gene therapy, stem cell therapy, and the use of anti-inflammatory medications. However, these advancements are still in the early stages, and more research is needed before they become widely available.

Can AMD affect both eyes at the same time?

Yes, AMD can affect both eyes simultaneously. However, it is also possible for AMD to develop in one eye first and then progress to the other eye over time. Regular eye exams and monitoring are essential in detecting and managing AMD in both eyes.

Are there any surgical treatments available for AMD?

Surgical treatments are generally not considered the primary approach for managing AMD. However, in some cases of advanced wet AMD, procedures like photodynamic therapy or retinal laser surgery may be recommended by an eye care professional. It is crucial to consult with a specialist to determine the most suitable treatment options based on the individual's condition.

Can nutritional supplements help prevent or treat AMD?

Certain nutritional supplements, such as those containing vitamins C and E, zinc, copper, and antioxidants, have been studied for their potential role in reducing the risk of advanced AMD. However, it is important to consult with an eye care professional before starting any dietary supplements.