What is Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)?

Picture of view with normal vision  Picture of view with macular degeneration

Normal                                          Vision Macular Degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration affects 25 to 30 million people worldwide.

The macula is located in the centre of the retina, at the back of the eye. It processes the images our brain translates into central vision. The size of a pea, the macula helps to see sharp detail, such as a freckle on a nose.

As our eyes get older, the membrane separating the macula from retinal blood vessels can weaken, depriving the macula of nourishment. When the macula degenerates, so too does central vision.

AMD can seriously affect one's central vision in just a few months or over the course of several years. In severe cases, scar tissue from leaky blood vessels can cause irreversible blind spots. Note that AMD will never cause total blindness since peripheral vision remains unaffected. People with AMD may see the color of someone's shirt, but not his face. They might spot a small coin on the floor as they walk through a room but cannot read the clock on the wall.

While no two individuals with AMD experience exactly the same degree of vision loss, brighter light and sharp contrast in color can make objects more visible to anyone with the condition.

There are two forms of AMD:
The dry form, which is the most common, and the wet form, which is less common but causes more severe and sudden sight loss.
With dry AMD, varying degrees of sight loss are caused by deposits of drusen (age spots) that form in the macula. Wet AMD results from abnormal blood vessels forming and leaking into the macula.

The cause and cure for AMD are unknown. However, treatments are available in a small percentage of cases. Possible risk factors for the condition include smoking, genetics, hypertension, sun exposure, far-sightedness, light skin or eye color, and poor diet.

What are the symptoms?

In the early stages your central vision may be blurred or distorted with things looking an unusual size or shape. This may happen quickly or develop over several months. You may be very sensitive to light or actually see lights that are not there. This may cause some discomfort occasionally but otherwise macular degeneration is not painful.

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