What is Macular Degeneration?

Macular Degeneration

What is Macular Degeneration?

 

Also referred to age-related macular degeneration (AMD or ARMD), it is a type of ocular disorder that leads to the loss of vision. The loss occurs due to a distortion in the central area of the visual field.

 

This is mostly prominent among people aged 50 and above. However, despite many of them suffering from AMD, they can still see to a considerable extent with some amount of disturbances in the vision. These disturbances limit the sharp vision one can normally have to view minute and fine details in activities such as driving, sewing etc. Considering distance, sometimes recognizing faces becomes a challenge as well for a person with AMD. On an average, around one in seven indicate symptoms of AMD in Australia.

 

What are some of the factors that lead to AMD?

- Old age (75+)

- Smoking

- Obesity

- High intake of fats

- High levels of cholesterol

- Increased exposure to sunlight

- Genetic linkage

 

What are the stages of age-related macular degeneration?

There are three stages based on the number of yellow deposits called ‘drusen’ in the macula such as:

  1. Early stage: As an initial stage and comparatively, the quantity of drusen is least of all other stages as this drusen increases and moves on to the next stage.

  1. Intermediate stage: The quantity of drusen is higher and can begin to cause some level of vision loss at this stage.

  1. Later stage: At this stage, the quantity has grown to a considerable amount leading to significant symptoms of central vision loss. At this stage, to further classify, AMD is split in two stages/types:

  • Dry type: This type of AMD is quite common in terms of age and begins with very minor symptoms. With the increase in age, these minor symptoms continue to increase in their effect/size. This increase can also lead to the wet type of AMD. The cells of light-sensitivity in the macula gradually collapse affecting the central visual field of the eye. Considering the gradual increase of the dry type, it is imperative for this type of AMD to occur generally via genetics thereby proving dry AMD one of the main causes for vision loss in those who are older.
  • Wet type: The growth of blood vessels becomes irregular due to the leakage of blood and fluid below the macula. This leads to an injury of the retina and also the damage of light-sensitive cells that form the macula. The irregular growth of blood vessels can also result in to their growth across the retina. The magnitude of vision loss tends to be more in Wet AMD than Dry AMD as mentioned above. The occurrence of vision loss in this type is mostly dramatic.

 

What are the symptoms I should be aware of?

The symptoms of macular degeneration are more prominent and diagnosable as the age of the person increases. Although, it depends on the type of AMD, there are a few common ones listed below:

  • Blank spots

  • Inaccurate central vision

  • Locus of focus in near distance such as reading

  • Blurriness in central vision

 

How can I get AMD diagnosed?

AMD can be diagnosed in its early stages by an optometrist or an ophthalmologist. It is essential to have regular eye tests where your visual field, dilation of the pupil can be checked. In order to have a deeper examination, it would be much more helpful to have tests such as Optical Coherence Tomography where cross section photographs are taken of your retina. Plus, tests like ICG and fluorescein angiography also contribute towards the accuracy of AMD’s diagnosis.