Age-related macular degeneration is an eye disease that can happen to anyone. It can not just be painful but may take away your freedom to see clearly and move you on the path to blindness.
So, while you can see clearly, let’s understand the disease better and see if we can stop it before it stops our vision.
In this article today we start by understanding what the disease is, its types, and the symptoms you should look out for. We continue by telling you about age related macular degeneration causes and risk factors. Lastly, we will share how (if) you can prevent it, and ways to diagnose and treat it. Read on!
What Is Age Related Macular Degeneration?
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a progressive eye disease that comes with age. As you turn 50 or 60 years old, the macula in your eye wears down and is unable to send visual signals to your brain like it normally does.
The macula is located in the center of your retina at the back of your eyes and controls a big portion of what you see. Therefore, when it wears down you suffer from blurry vision and sometimes blindness too.
Now that you understand age-related macular degeneration, you should know that it’s of two types. Wet and dry.
Age Related Macular Degeneration Wet Vs Dry
Most elders who have AMD, suffer from dry age related macular degeneration. It is when small yellow deposits start forming on your retina and distort your vision. When the conditions start growing worse, the light-sensitive cells in the macula that send visual signals to the brain begin to damage and eventually die. Thus, leading to vision loss.
The other type is wet age related macular degeneration. It is when some blood vessels start growing under your macula and leak into the retina. The fluid in your eyes distorts your vision leading to blind spots and wavy lines. If the situation is not treated on time, the blood vessels can leave a scar damaging your central vision permanently.
Wet age related macular degeneration is actually the advanced stage of AMD.
Symptoms Of Age Related Macular Degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration symptoms are not very prominent in the early stages. However, when you do get around the age of 60, you may experience
- Blurry vision
- Dark spots in your central vision
- Difficulty reading or doing tasks that require clear vision
- Trouble in differentiating colors
- Distorted vision (you see waves instead of the straight lines)
Causes Of Age Related Macular Degeneration
Primarily, the cause is just one – advancing age. Like any part of a machine wears down with constant use, our macula in the retina of the eyes wears down too with age.
It starts with clumps of yellow deposits on your macula. Then these lead to the damage of photoreceptor cells in your macula that help you see clearly by sending the right signals to the brain.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration Risk Factors
While age is one of the primary factors that lead to age-related macular degeneration, there are risk factors that you must consider in order to make yourself better prepared for the disease.
- Family history (if someone in the family has AMD, you are at greater risk)
- Light eye color
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Nutrient deficiency
- Too much sun exposure to the eyes
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Too much exposure to blue light
How To Prevent Age Related Macular Degeneration?
There’s no way you can prevent age-related macular degeneration unless you stop aging. And you know that’s not possible.
What’s possible is that you can delay it. So, your age-related macular degeneration prevention program must include a healthy diet, the correct lifestyle that includes regular exercise, and less trouble for your eyes. You can make sure you have no nutrient deficiency, obesity, or high blood pressure. Add eye-friendly nutrients like zinc, vitamin A and omega 3 fatty acids to your regular diet. And quit smoking if you have a habit.
Diagnosis And Treatment For Age Related Macular Degeneration
You now know that age related macular degeneration does not show symptoms in the early stage. Therefore, eye examinations at least every year is necessary for diagnosing the disease.
Your doctor may ask you to take the following test for age related macular degeneration:
- Visual field test – helps understand how much distorted your vision is.
- Dilated eye exam – the doctor dilates your pupils with eye drops and uses a lens to identify problems in your eyes.
- Fluorescein angiography – the doctor injects a die called fluorescein through your veins. This drug travels through your blood and tracks your blood vessels. It can therefore reach the blood vessels near the macula and help understand if they are leaking, and how bad the condition is.
- OCT or Optical Coherence Tomography – During OCT, you look into a lens, and a machine takes pictures of all parts of your eyes to understand the problems. It’s one of the painless ways to diagnose AMD.
Once diagnosed, age related macular degeneration treatment for the dry type begins with a prescription of vitamins and minerals.
Many doctors say that there’s no actual treatment possible to remove the yellow deposits that distort your vision in dry AMD. So they prescribe vitamins and minerals that slow down the damage and help delay the worse effects of dry AMD.
Here are some of the nutrients your doctor may suggest – Copper, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Zinc, Lutein, and Zeaxanthin.
Make sure you consult your doctor and find the correct dosage for these vitamins and minerals.
For wet AMD, the treatment includes:
- Photodynamic therapy: during this therapy, your doctor may inject a light-sensitive drug and use a laser to kill the blood vessels in the eye that cause the disease.
- Anti-VEGF or Anti-Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor: VEGF is a protein that creates new blood vessels. By injecting anti-VEGF – a drug that blocks AMD, your doctor can stop the process of blood vessel development. Thus, helping you see better.
Sometimes, photodynamic therapy and anti-VEGF are used together for better results.
- Is age-related macular degeneration caused by genetics?
Yes, if someone in your family has age related macular degeneration, you are very likely to have it too.
- What does age-related macular degeneration look like?
If a person above the age of 50 complains of blurry vision in the central eye, distortion, or can’t seem to see colors properly, they probably have AMD.
- What is neovascular age-related macular degeneration?
Neovascular age-related macular degeneration is another name for wet AMD. It’s when the protein VEGF starts creating multiple blood vessels under your macula, which leak blood or fluid in your eyes, thus damaging the photosensitive cells that help you see.
It is the more advanced stage of AMD.
- What is exudative macular degeneration?
Exudative age-related macular degeneration is another name for Wet or neovascular AMD. Exudation means oozing out into something – here, it implies the blood oozing out or leaking into your eyes through those blood vessels.
- Age related macular degeneration dry VS wet – which is worse?
About 90% of people with AMD have dry AMD. While it’s not curable, it is still manageable, and people can have good vision with a prescription of vitamins and minerals.
However, wet AMD is the worst type. Thankfully, it is curable with treatment options like photodynamic therapy or anti-VEGF.
Now you know all about age-related macular degeneration – from symptoms, causes to diagnosis and treatment. It’s time to get that regular annual check-up and see if you have any yellow deposits or extra blood vessels forming in your eyes that you don’t know about.
Go consult your doctor today!
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