Many people are not at all familiar with the inner workings of the human eye or how sight is impacted by aging. Age-related macular degeneration is a vision problem directly related to aging. We have all heard it mentioned over the years, but it is something we should pay more attention to as we get older.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of irreversible vision loss among people in their “seasoned” years. It is the result of damage to the macula in the eye’s retina that often stems from the typical wear and tear of life.
The macula is made up of light-sensing cells. These cells allow us to see objects that are in our direct line of sight and also to discern fine details. When the macula is damaged, it can cause a blurred or darkened area to grow in the center of our field of vision – leaving us with clear sight only around the edges. Such limited sight can interfere with our ability to manage many of the everyday activities we enjoy and often take for granted, like reading, writing, cooking, driving, and even distinguishing the facial features of our loved ones.
It is crucial to get regular eye exams throughout your seasoned years and to discuss any vision problems with your doctor. There are steps you can take to delay or lessen the impact of AMD.
There is no known cure for AMD, but there are treatments that can sometimes delay or reduce the severity of the disease. Ongoing research is aimed at identifying new and more effective prevention measures and treatments.
Age-related macular degeneration develops differently in different people. For some, the disease advances so gradually it may take quite a long time to notice any loss in vision. For others, however, the disease may progress much faster.
There are two forms of age-related macular degeneration. Dry and Wet. The dry form is more common and tends to have a less significant impact on daily life, especially if only one eye is affected. Wet macular degeneration is less common than dry macular degeneration, but typically progresses faster and causes more extensive vision loss. In many instances, wet macular degeneration begins as dry macular degeneration.
Early detection of the disease is important, because - in many cases- it is possible to delay or reduce the severity of AMD.
If you have any of these symptoms, they may signal age-related macular degeneration. See an eye doctor (ophthalmologist) as soon as possible.
Although AMD can cause a significant loss of central vision, it usually does not lead to total blindness.
AMD is usually diagnosed via a comprehensive eye exam that may include a variety of vision tests, including a dilated eye exam. During a dilated eye exam, special eye drops are used that cause your pupils to widen and let in more light so your doctor can examine the back of your eye.
Specific causes of macular degeneration are not known, but age is a primary risk factor for the disease. In most instances, the disease is diagnosed after the age of 60, but it can strike earlier.