What is age-related macular degeneration?
AMD is a condition of the eye, in which degenerative processes in the region of the macula (central part of the retina; area of highest resolution) cause loss vision and eventually loss of sight.
The patient is primarily affected in his reading and driving abilities, whereas the peripheral vision and therefore the three-dimensional orientation and the recognition of contours remain intact.
The Forms of AMD
With over 80 percent, the most common form is the dry macular degeneration. Its development can stretch over the years and remain unnoticed by the patient. A transformation into the moist form is possible.
By far more aggressive is the with 15% less common form of moist macular degeneration. The deterioration usually occurs within a few weeks or months and a major low vision and eventually loss of eyesight can be the outcome. Typical for this form is the growth of new, quickly proliferating blood vessels that intrude into the macula and cause bleeding. For more information on the 2 forms of AMD, watch the video embedded below.
What causes AMD?
The cause of AMD is uncertain. Pathophysiologically, an excess and defect within the epithelial cells of the retina occurs. Decomposed products of the retinal cells accumulate and residues remain.
Age is the only certain risk factor in the occurrence of AMD. AMD usually begins after the age of 50 and up to 25 % of the population are affected by different stages of this disease. 6.5 million people in Europe suffer from the advanced stages of AMD and ultimately, blindness. In industrial nations, AMD is the number one cause of blindness.
It is argued that atherosclerosis, smoking, light exposure and a low serum concentration of beta carotene increases the risk of AMD.
What are the symptoms of AMD?
Fast deterioration of eyesight, which is often first noticed while reading, is a symptom that needs to be taken seriously and a strong indication for consulting a doctor. The distortion of straight lines, as well as the loss of a central area vision within the image, are also characteristics.
How can AMD be diagnosed?
An ophthalmologist uses an ophthalmoscope to diagnose AMD. By being able to peer into the back of the eye, he is able to check if there are pigment clusters and discolored residues in the retina. If AMD is in its later stages, new blood vessels are evident. The doctor can perform fluorescent angiography for a clearer view of these blood vessels.
In this procedure, fluorescent coloring is injected into the blood circulation and with the help of special cameras, its distribution within the retina can be observed.
What therapeutic options exist?
No treatment really exists for the dry or moist form of macular degeneration. But with the help of special tools, such as illuminated magnifying glasses and books with enlarged print, vision correction is possible. A person suffering from AMD can even wear top-quality colored contact lenses.
For moist macular degeneration, your doctor can recommend therapies that can both slow down the degenerating processes and lead to a temporary improvement of eyesight have been developed. These methods aim to destroy any newly forming potentially dangerous blood vessels.
One method by which these vessels can be destroyed is through laser coagulation. With this treatment, the retina can become scarred.
Another form of treatment is photodynamic therapy. A photoactive coloring that selectively adheres to pathological vessels is applied intravenously to the patient.
At a later point, this coloring will be stimulated by means of a non-thermic laser which initiates the destruction of these vessels.
The advantage of this procedure is that no scarring occurs, hence it can be applied to all vessels including those in the macula.
Ensuring eye health
Whether or not a person has AMD, it is always important to maintain eye health and prevent further complications. There are things you can do to achieve this goal. You can start by getting regular eye checkups, maintaining a healthy weight and diet, preventing infections, and wearing the appropriate eyewear. If you’re on a tight budget, opt for affordable contact lens options from premium brands.