Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of central vision loss in adults over the age of 50. The early stages of AMD do not present many signs or symptoms. However, in advanced stages, patients will typically lose their ability to drive, see faces, and read small print. Age-related macular degeneration is classified as either being wet or dry.
Dry age-related macular degeneration is the most common form of AMD, making up nearly 80% of cases. Dry AMD happens gradually as drusen (clusters of fats and proteins under the macula) begin to build up. Over time, these drusen interfere with central vision, resulting in vision loss.
Wet age-related macular degeneration is less common but more severe than dry AMD. Wet AMD occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow beneath the retina. When the blood vessels grow, they leak fluid and blood, creating distorted vision and blind spots in the central vision. Patients experiencing wet age-related macular degeneration will typically have symptoms that occur faster and more intensely than dry AMD.
Symptoms of age-related macular degeneration are similar in both wet and dry forms:
- Wavy lines in vision
- Inability to distinguish fine details like faces and words in a book
- Blurry vision
- Blind spots in central vision
- Difficulty seeing in dark or dim light
At this time, there are no treatments for dry age-related macular degeneration except taking AREDS2 vitamins to slow down its progress. Consulting with an eye care specialist can determine which specific nutritional supplements or vitamins are recommended. In addition, there are eye-healthy foods like dark leafy greens, fish, and a nutrient-rich diet that can be beneficial to patients with dry AMD. As for wet AMD, anti-VEGF injections can reduce the amount of abnormal blood vessels in the retina. Laser surgery might also be recommended to reduce the amount of blood vessels, subsequently slowing any leaking.
Age is the biggest contributor to age-related macular degeneration, but other risk factors include high blood pressure, obesity, smoking, and high cholesterol. If you or a loved one are experiencing any symptoms of age-related macular degeneration, consult with an ophthalmologist immediately. In addition to medical history and eye exam, they can perform a visual acuity test to check for dry AMD and a fluorescein angiography to determine if blood vessels are leaking to check for wet AMD.