AMD is a leading cause of vision loss among people aged 50 and above. It is a degeneration of the macula, an area of the retina at the back of the eye which is responsible for sharp central vision. Symptoms typically start with a slowly progressive painless loss of central vision in one eye. Over time, this blurred area may enlarge and other shadowy spots may arise in the centre of vision. Straight lines may be noticed to be distorted or wavy. It interferes with everyday activities like reading, writing, watching TV and driving.
Causes, Types & Risk factors
Dry AMD is more common (85-90%). It is diagnosed when yellow spots known as drusen are seen by your eye doctor in and around your macula. These spots are the debris deposited in the macula as you age. It can progress slowly over years to late-stage geographic atrophy, in which degeneration of the retinal cells can result in severe central vision loss.
About 10% of dry AMD can progress to the more serious form of wet AMD. In wet AMD, abnormal blood vessels grow beneath the retina, leaking blood and fluid which cause irreversible scarring and damage to retinal cells, resulting in severe central vision loss.
Risk factors include ageing, heredity, smoking, obesity and inactivity, and high blood pressure.
Eating a healthy diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, having adequate exercise and wearing sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet rays can help to protect your eyes from AMD.
Large clinical trials (the Age-Related Eye Disease Study AREDS in 2001 and a follow-up study AREDS2 in 2013) have shown that nutritional supplements containing antioxidant vitamins and multivitamins including lutein and zeaxanthin can reduce the risk of dry AMD progressing to wet AMD. For wet AMD, treatments include Lucentis, Eylea, Macugen and Visudyne used with Photodynamic Therapy.