Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) - Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

What is Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)?

The macula, a sensitive part of the retina at the back of the eye, has millions of cells which sense light and provide sharp detail of objects within our central vision.  Damage to the macula will impact central vision which may become blurred, darkened or distorted. There might be blank spots when looking straight ahead. AMD can impair your quality of life in earlier stages, affecting the ability to see faces, read, write or drive.

Who is at risk?

AMD usually occurs after 50 but it can develop earlier. Other risk factors include lifestyle choices such as smoking which can double the potential risk of AMD. It occurs most often in Caucasians. If there is a family history of AMD you are also at risk.

Symptoms of AMD

There are no perceptible symptoms when AMD begins to develop. It can only be detected by an eye care professional conducting a comprehensive eye examination.  By the time it has developed, changes to your central vision occur, such as:

  • Blurring & distortion
  • Darkened vision
  • Blank spots
Diagnosis and treatment

Visual testing for distance or tracking your history using the Amsler grid may show early indications of AMD, but a correct diagnosis can only be made during a comprehensive eye exam.  Drops may be used to widen the pupils of the eye allowing your eyecare professional to see the back of the eye to examine the retina. They will look for changes in the appearance of your macula and signs that AMD may be starting to develop.

There are no specific treatments necessary for the early stages of AMD, but your eyecare professional may make some suggestions with respect to lifestyle (smoking cessation, reduced UV exposure, improved diet) and will likely advise you to begin supplementation with a combination of vitamins and minerals proven to slow down the advancement of the condition. Advanced treatments to slow down the disease include injections, laser therapy and surgery.

You only have one set of eyes. If you are concerned about your vision and the health of your eyes, make sure to book regular visits with your Total Eye Health Optometrist.