Age-related Macular Degeneration

Our eye sight tends to deteriorate as we age. Some common age-related eye diseases include Macular Degeneration (AMD), glaucoma and cataract. Of these, AMD is the main cause of vision loss in elderly people.

The macular is the ‘yellow spot’ at the center of the retina. The macular contains particularly high density of light receptors that helps focus fine images and details onto the retina. It plays an important role in every human’s daily life, including reading, writing, driving and sewing.

There are two types of AMD: Dry Macular Degeneration and Wet Macular Degeneration:

DRY AMD

Dry AMD is the most common form of AMD, affecting about 85% of people with AMD. As we age, nutrition deficiency disrupts the function of the receptors in the retina, causing the cells to become less efficient.

Dry AMD affects one’s life by causing blurred vision or a blind spot in the central vision. Vision loss takes place slowly, leading to blindness if no action is taken. Supplements that are high in antioxidants and lutien help to slow down the process of AMD. For some patients, sufficient nutrition helps improve the acuity of their vision.

Symptoms of Dry AMD include:

  • Blurred or blind spot in the central vision
  • Inability  or decreased ability to see colours and fine details
  • Difficulty recognising faces
  • Require additional light to work and read
  • Difficulty adapting to dim lighting

Dry AMD can occur in one eye or both eyes. People with Dry AMD in just one eye usually fail to detect any signs and symptoms compare to those with AMD in both eyes, because the other eye will balance out the vision.

Currently, there is no cure for Dry AMD. Treatment includes laser therapy to correct the condition or supplements and vitamins to slow down the process of blindness.

WET AMD

Also known as Neovascular AMD, Wet AMD occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow beneath the macular. When these blood vessels form, blood and fluid tend to leak into the retina which leads to distorted vision. 

The bleeding and scarring cause permanent damage to the retina, which may lead to rapid vision loss if left untreated. Wet AMD does not cause any pain and may stay unnoticed until it reaches the advanced stage.

Although it occurs in just 10% of people with AMD, Wet AMD can occur in anyone. Symptoms include:

  • Decreased central vision
  • Visual distortions such as seeing straight lines as crooked or wavy
  • Rapid worsening of eyesight
  • Blurry or blind spots in the central vision

Factors that may increase your risk of Wet AMD include age, family history, diet, smoking and high blood pressure.

If you experience symptoms and know of factors that may increase your risk of Wet AMD, visit an opthlalmologist as soon as possible, who will perform several eye tests such as the amsler grid test.

Once diagnosed with Wet AMD, treatments are available to stop the growth of abnormal blood vessels including medication through injections or laser to eliminate abnormal blood vessels.

Left untreated, AMD will lead to vision loss. Everyone above 50 should have their eyes checked regularly and watch out for symptoms associated with AMD.

Living with AMD

If you already have AMD, here are some ways to manage your daily life better:

  • Have difficulty reading? Use the audio system on the computer or smartphone which helps to read out the displays as an alternative.
  • Use brighter lights at home.
  • Consider using public transport instead of drive.
  • Consult your doctor for the most suitable glasses.

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