Vision changes with age. The retina tends to become less supple, and many Americans over the age of 50 experience symptoms like blurry vision. However, some eye health conditions like age-related macular degeneration (AMD) can cause more severe symptoms, including partial vision loss. Read on to learn more about AMD and how to prevent it.
What Is Age-Related Macular Degeneration?
Age-related macular degeneration is an ocular disease that typically causes a partial loss of vision. The vision loss happens in the center of the eye due to damage to the retina. AMD is a fairly common condition with as many as 11 million patients in the U.S. Experts believe this number will increase as the population ages.
AMD is an eye health condition that worsens over time. Damage to the retina progresses and causes patients’ central vision to keep getting worse. However, you can take steps to slow down the condition’s progression. While patients can experience central vision loss that prevents them from performing activities like driving, a total loss of vision is extremely rare in AMD patients.
What Causes Age-Related Macular Degeneration?
Age-related eye problems are common, and most people report symptoms like blurry vision. Let’s take a closer look at how aging can cause AMD to appear.
Dry Age-Related Macular Degeneration
There are two different types of AMD. The most common type is the dry form. As patients age, lipids and proteins build up in the eye and form deposits known as drusen. Drusen are yellow in appearance and can affect the back of the retina, a part known as the macula. Drusen are a normal sign of aging and don’t always affect vision.
However, patients who are prone to getting large drusen deposits are more likely to develop AMD since these deposits cause macula cells to degenerate and die. Macula cells play a vital role in sight. These light-sensitive cells help process the stimuli that result in images forming in your brain. Damaged macular cells can’t respond to light and fail to transmit the necessary images to your brain, resulting in a partial loss of vision.
Because drusen typically appears in the center of the macula, patients tend to develop a central black spot in their vision but will retain peripheral vision. Experts also believe that age can cause the membrane that supports the macula to sustain damage. It’s possible that a damaged membrane worsens the macular damage caused by the drusen deposits or increases a patient’s risk of developing large drusen deposits.
Wet Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Wet AMD is less common. However, patients with wet AMD are more likely to experience severe vision loss. With age, abnormal blood vessels can sometimes grow underneath the retina. The retina relies on blood vessels to receive nutrients and oxygen, but these atypical blood vessels can leak and cause scarring on the macula. Damage from the scarring causes vision loss. Note that patients with advanced dry AMD can sometimes develop the wet form of the condition.
What Are Some Common Symptoms of Age-Related Macular Degeneration?
AMD is a condition that progresses over time. Symptoms might be benign at first, but patients usually experience a gradual loss of vision. It’s possible to experience symptoms only in one eye, then both. At first, patients might notice some spots in their vision, especially in the morning. Colors might look less bright, and lights might feel uncomfortable. As the central vision continues to deteriorate, your vision might look distorted. For instance, a straight line could appear curved when you look at it directly.
Activities like reading will become increasingly difficult. Words can disappear when you stare at them. AMD patients also tend to have a hard time recognizing faces since facial features become difficult to distinguish when looking at someone. Eventually, a dark spot will appear in the center of your field of view. Vision gets worse with age – it’s a fact of life. However, AMD requires swift action to prevent exponential vision deterioration.
It’s essential to take action as soon as you start noticing potential symptoms of AMD. It’s a disease that progresses over time, and you can save your remaining vision or protect an eye the disease hasn’t affected yet.
A doctor or optometrist can diagnose this condition. They’ll typically perform an eye exam and use instruments to inspect the back of the retina to look for signs of damage. They can also utilize a vision test to determine if you’re experiencing central vision loss. There are other diagnosis methods your doctor can perform, such as injecting a colored dye to identify abnormal blood vessels in the retina.
How to Treat AMD
Unfortunately, there’s no treatment available for reversing damage to the retina. If you suffer from dry AMD, your best option is to support eye health with a diet rich in vitamins and adopt a healthy lifestyle to prevent the formation of additional drusen deposits. Vision therapy can also help you develop your peripheral vision. For wet AMD patients, a doctor can inject an anti-VEGF agent into the eye. VEGF is a protein that causes blood vessel growth, and neutralizing it with this medication prevents abnormal blood vessels from appearing. In some cases, laser photocoagulation can be a viable treatment option for treating a cluster of atypical blood vessels.
Risk Factors and Prevention for AMD
Aging is a major risk factor for developing AMD. However, smoking, suffering from high blood pressure, and eating a diet rich in fat can increase your risks. The best way to prevent AMD is to adopt a healthy lifestyle and schedule eye exams regularly to catch the condition early.
Get a Diagnosis With Art of Optiks
With two practices in Minnesota, Art of Optiks is a small eye care chain dedicated to offering quality care. If you experience any of the AMD symptoms mentioned above or have other concerns regarding your vision, schedule an appointment, and one of our experts will perform the necessary tests to determine if you have AMD or another ocular condition. Fill out our online form or contact us to request an appointment at our Wayzata or Edina locations.