Protecting Your Eyes from Age-Related Macular Degeneration: Don't Let Your Vision Go with the Ageing Process!

Protecting Your Eyes from Age-Related Macular Degeneration: Don't Let Your Vision Go with the Ageing Process!

As you get older, you may start to experience more health problems. One of the most common age-related changes is age-related macular degeneration (AMD), an eye disorder that affects the macula, a part of the eye that supports sharp and central vision

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is a common and potentially blinding eye condition that affects over 11 million people in the United States alone. AMD is an eye condition that affects a person’s central vision, or the center of a person’s vision that is used for activities such as reading, driving, and recognizing faces.


At its core, Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is an eye disease where the macula, which is the center part of the eye's retina responsible for defining our sharp central vision, deteriorates. This affects not only our ability to see but also our overall quality of life because it impairs our ability to complete visually complex tasks such as reading and driving. AMD is the most typical cause of vision loss in those who are older than fifty.



Two Main Types of AMD


There are two main types of AMD: “dry” and “wet.” The dry form is the most common type, affecting approximately 80-90 percent of all AMD patients, and is caused by a breakdown of light-sensitive cells in the macula over time. This causes gradual, blurry vision that is usually symmetrical.





Dry AMD occurs when the cells of the macula become damaged over time. This progresses slowly, and its primary symptoms may include blurred central vision, increased difficulty adjusting to low light levels, and a dark or empty spot appearing at the center of vision. Without treatment, this form of AMD can lead to blindness.

So, what exactly is happening in the eye when dry AMD occurs? The macula contains thousands of very small cells that work together to produce sharp central vision. As AMD progresses, these cells become damaged and stop working properly, the most noticeable symptom being blurred central vision. Over time, these tiny cells begin to die, leading to yellowish deposits called drusen forming beneath the maculas layer of photoreceptor cells. This, in turn, further reduces vision, leading to the dark or empty spot the patient will notice appearing in the center of their vision.






In the wet form of AMD, abnormal blood vessels grow underneath the macula and then leak fluid or blood, forming scars in the area. This can cause blurred vision, distortion, and blind spots or scotomas in central vision. In its earliest stages, these distortions are barely noticeable, however they can quickly worsen and spread to more of the eye.

Wet AMD can be caused by a combination of environmental and genetic factors. One theory suggests that the increased breakdown of retinal cells due to oxidation or from exposure to blue light may play a role in the development of wet AMD. In addition, some studies suggest that certain genetic variants may be linked to higher levels of oxidative stress, which can lead to the abnormal growth of blood vessels in the eye.


What causes macular degeneration?


Macular degeneration is a medical condition that affects the macula, the area in the center of the retina responsible for central vision. It is the leading cause of vision loss in adults over age 50 and is characterized by a deterioration of the macular tissue, which results in a decrease in sharpness of vision and difficulty with activities such as reading, driving, and recognizing faces.


The exact cause of macular degeneration remains unknown, but research suggests that it is caused by both environmental and genetic factors. Age is a primary risk factor, as most cases of macular degeneration occur in individuals over the age of 60. Other risk factors include family history, race, certain illnesses, and lifestyle habits such as smoking and inadequate nutrition.


According to The cause of macular degeneration is not known, but it is more common in people who smoke. Your risk increases the older you get, and is higher for people who have close family members with the condition. If your parent or sibling have AMD, you have a 50% risk of getting it. 


Ultimately, the cause of macular degeneration is still being researched, but a combination of factors is the most likely culprit. Knowing the risk factors and taking steps to reduce them can help to reduce the likelihood of developing macular degeneration.



How is AMD diagnosed?


To diagnose AMD, an ophthalmologist will collect a complete medical history and evaluate the patients vision and ocular health. During the exam, the doctor will assess the patients visual acuity, examine the eyes with a magnifying glass, and look at the back of the eye with an ophthalmoscope.



In addition to these tests, the doctor may use a biomicroscope to examine various parts of the macula. In some cases, the doctor may choose to perform angiography on the patient to take detailed images of the eyes blood vessels. During this procedure, the patient will receive a dye injection and then special photographs will be taken. These photographs can reveal changes in blood vessel patterns, which is a key indicator of AMD.



How is AMD treated?

There is no cure for AMD, but there are highly effective treatments that have been designed to slow the progression of this eye disorder. 

The first step in treating AMD is to make lifestyle changes. Patients are urged to quit smoking, avoid direct sunlight, and eat a healthy diet full of dark, leafy greens and omega-3 fatty acids to help protect their eyes.



Regularly scheduling comprehensive eye exams so that any changes or problems can be identified and treated early is also important. When a person is diagnosed with wet AMD, they will likely be prescribed injections of anti-VEGF medications.



VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) is a protein responsible for creating new blood vessels. These anti-VEGF drugs work by inhibiting the formation of new blood vessels that can damage the macula and cause vision loss.


For advanced forms of AMD, therapies such as photodynamic therapy (PDT) and thermal laser treatments may be an option. PDT uses a light-activated drug to destroy new abnormal blood vessels, while thermal laser treatments seal these blood vessels and can help preserve the macula. Some forms of AMD may also be treated with implantable miniature telescopic lenses. 



This advanced vision correction technology can be implanted during cataract surgery or surgery performed to treat AMD. It uses two miniature telescope lenses to magnify the center of the patient's vision field and enlarge the image of what they are seeing.

No matter which approach is used, early diagnosis and treatment of AMD is essential. Taking steps to prevent AMD in the first place and detecting and treating it early can help reduce the risk of permanent vision loss.


Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a detrimental eye condition that affects millions of adults each year. Since there is currently no cure for AMD, timely detection and treatment are essential for preserving the vision of those affected. Fortunately, leading ophthalmologists and optometrists can now use a variety of diagnostic testing and treatments to slow the progression of AMD and help maintain the vision of people affected. By understanding the risk factors, making lifestyle changes to protect the eyes, and consulting an eye care provider for regular eye examinations, those with the condition, as well as those without it, can increase their knowledge and take proactive steps to better protect their vision long-term.

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