While age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common, occurring in those aged 65 or over, there are other, less common types that can affect people of any age.
There are two principle types: wet AMD and dry AMD. Wet AMD tends to be more sudden in onset and thus more serious, occurring at any age, while dry AMD is typically associated with age and is slower in onset.
In both types the macular (the central part of the eye) deteriorates, resulting in a loss of central vision.
Most people do not experience any symptoms in the early stages, especially if dry degeneration is present in only one eye. As the macular cells deteriorate, people may notice the following visual changes:
- Straight lines, such as lamp-posts or door frames, appearing distorted or bent.
- Vision becoming blurry or developing gaps.
- Objects changing shape, size or colour.
- Dark spots like a smudge on a glass appearing in the centre of your vision.
- Difficulty in adapting from dark to bright lighting.
- Discomfort or a glaring sensation in bright light.
- Words disappearing when reading.
Macular degeneration is a painless condition. However, the sudden onset of symptoms should be reported to your Optometrist.
The cause of macular degeneration is unknown, however there are certain factors that are believed to heighten the risk of developing the condition. These include:
- Age - macular degeneration is most prominent in over 65s.
- A family history of the condition.
- Poor diet - especially one which lacks antioxidants or is high in saturated fat.
- High blood pressure.
- Overexposure to UV light.
- Gender - more women are diagnosed than men.
Wet AMD requires referral to an Ophthalmologist, who will discuss the options available.
There is no known effective treatment for dry macular degeneration, although lifestyle choices and nutrition may play a role in minimising further progression.
Evidence shows that increasing the intake of antioxidants and improvements to the diet, including foods rich in certain nutrients, such as lutein and zeaxanthin, can help reduce the risk of macular degeneration. These are found in spinach, broccoli and sprouts, as well as in specific AMD nutritional supplements. For further advice on supplements speak to your Optometrist.
Those with AMD often find increased lighting or contrast helpful. The use of electronic devices, such as tablets, can prove very useful, as they can be adjusted for illumination and contrast.
Optometrists have a number of ways to test for macular degeneration and early signs can be spotted during a routine eye test. If macular degeneration is suspected, you may be referred to a hospital Ophthalmologist for a full diagnosis.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned, please make an appointment with the optical expert at your nearest Vision Express store.