Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a problem with your retina. It happens when a part of the retina called the macula is damaged.
With AMD you lose your central vision. You cannot see fine details, whether you are looking at something close or far. But your peripheral (side) vision will still be normal. For instance, imagine you are looking at a clock with hands. With AMD, you might see the clock’s numbers but not the hands.
AMD is very common. It is a leading cause of vision loss in people 50 years or older.
This form is quite common. About 80% (8 out of 10) of people who have AMD have the dry form. Dry AMD is when parts of the macula get thinner with age and tiny clumps of protein resulting in gradual loss of central vision. There is no way to treat dry AMD yet.
This form is less common but much more serious. Wet AMD is when new, abnormal blood vessels grow under the retina. These vessels may leak blood or other fluids, causing scarring of the macula. You lose vision faster with wet AMD than with dry AMD.
You are more likely to develop AMD if you:
Having heart disease is another risk factor for AMD, as is having high cholesterol levels. Caucasians also have an elevated risk of getting AMD.
During an eye exam, your ophthalmologist may ask you to look at an Amsler grid. This grid helps you notice any blurry, distorted, or blank spots in your field of vision. Your ophthalmologist will also look inside your eye through a special lens. He or she can see if there are changes in the retina and macula.
Your ophthalmologist will put dilating eye drops in your eye to widen your pupil. This allows him or her to look through a special lens at the inside of your eye.
Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is another way to look closely at the retina. A machine scans the retina and provides very detailed images of the retina and macula.
Your doctor may do fluorescein angiography to see what is happening with your retina. Yellow dye (called fluorescein) is injected into a vein, usually in your arm. The dye travels through your blood vessels. A special camera takes photos of the retina as the dye travels throughout its blood vessels. This shows if abnormal new blood vessels are growing under the retina.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration Treatment
Right now, there is no way to treat the dry form of AMD. However, people with lots of drusen or serious vision loss might benefit from taking a certain combination of nutritional supplements. A large study (AREDS and the later AREDS 2 study) found people with certain drusen may slow their dry AMD by taking these vitamins and minerals daily:
Your ophthalmologist can tell you if vitamins and minerals are recommended for your dry AMD, as not all forms will benefit from the AREDS supplements. Beta carotene should not be used by smokers as it raised the risk of lung cancer.
To help treat wet AMD, there are medications called anti-VEGF drugs which is injected into the eye. Anti-VEGF treatment helps reduce the number of abnormal blood vessels in your retina. It also slows any leaking from blood vessels. This medicine is delivered to your eye through a very slender needle.
Laser surgery may also be used to treat some types of wet AMD. Your eye surgeon shines a laser light beam on the abnormal blood vessels. This reduces the number of vessels and slows their leaking..
Dark leafy greens, yellow fruits and vegetables, fish, and a balanced, nutrient-rich diet have been shown beneficial for people with AMD.
If you have AMD, you can learn how to make the most of your vision. Often you can still do many of your favorite things with special low vision tools. These can include different kinds of magnifying tools, handheld computers, electronic items and more.
AMD causes your vision to change over time. You may not notice these changes when they happen. But you need to catch vision changes as soon as possible. Treating them early can help slow or stop further loss of sight.
You should use an Amsler grid every day to monitor your vision. One is below for you to use.
Here is how to use the Amsler grid:
Call your ophthalmologist right away if you notice that any lines or parts of the grid look wavy, blurry, or dim.
This is what an Amsler grid might look like with blurry, wavy lines, or dim areas.
Macular degeneration treatment is one of our specialties. For more than 20 years, Westchester Eye Surgeons has helped patients with macular degeneration. Our practice is headed by Dr. Spero J. Kinnas, one of the leading eye surgeons in Chicago. Westchester Eye Surgeons are conveniently located in west suburban Westchester, IL, to better serve Chicago and the surrounding suburbs.Contact Us