What Is Age-Related Macular Degeneration?
Most people can expect some changes to their vision as they age, but age-related macular degeneration doesn’t necessarily cause permanent vision loss.
Everyone’s vision changes at least slightly with age, but not everyone experiences the same level of degradation. Some people may struggle to see nearby objects, for example, while others may notice blind spots in their field of vision.
These blind spots are often a product of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a common eye condition that’s most prevalent among people older than 50. In fact, AMD is the most common cause of vision loss in people over the age of 55. If you’re concerned you may be developing AMD, the good news is that there are effective treatment options available. Here’s what you need to know.
AMD is the gradual deterioration of the macula, the oval-shaped region of the retina that’s responsible for focusing vision and our ability to see color when looking directly at an object. Since it only affects central vision, and not peripheral sight, it does not cause total blindness, but it can leave patients with significantly impaired vision if left untreated.
AMD progresses gradually, with symptoms intensifying over time. In the early stages, it may cause little to no change in vision — especially if it affects only one eye — but as it develops, it results in a distinct set of symptoms, including:
- Difficulty in seeing clearly enough for tasks that require precision, such as reading or driving
- Trouble focusing on nearby objects, making them appear distorted, blurred, or abnormal in shape, size, or color
- Blind spot in the center of vision
- Objects that seem to “jump” when you try to look directly at them
Diagnosis and Treatment
As with any eye disease, AMD should be diagnosed as early as possible so that patients can minimize its long-term effects on their eyes. In recent years, state-of-the-art techniques like angiography have helped ophthalmologists spot the signs of AMD earlier than ever, ensuring that patients receive treatment before its symptoms become noticeable.
Treatments for AMD have greatly advanced in recent years. Most patients can now expect to enjoy the same sharpness of vision they had before their diagnosis, and other patients suffering from vision loss may even be able to regain some of it.
If it’s diagnosed early on, AMD can be treated with some simple conservative measures such as dietary or lifestyle changes and corrective glasses. In more advanced cases, however, it may benefit from minimally invasive medical intervention. Some patients, for example, respond well to injections of anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), which can be introduced into the eye to slow or stop the progress of AMD. Other patients can be treated with photodynamic therapy, during which a qualified specialist uses a laser to destroy any leaking blood vessels in the retina that are causing damage to the macula.
Even if you haven’t noticed any symptoms of AMD, regular eye exams are still essential to maintaining healthy vision, particularly if you’re over the age of 55. If you’re worried that you might be experiencing symptoms of AMD, the team at ICON Eyecare has years of experience in treating the condition. Visit us online to schedule an appointment!