I used to think that my eyesight was pretty good! But one day I noticed what appeared to be cobwebs coming down over my face – but they weren’t there at all – they were inside my eye – a very frightening experience.
I immediately visited my doctor who doctor referred me to an eye specialist the very same day.
He diagnosed me with age related macular degeneration. This was a total shock to me!
My mother, who lasted till she was 96 years of age, was virtually blind the last two decades of her life due to the effects of age-related macular degeneration.
For these reasons I decided to take an in-depth look at the subject so that I could see what caused the problem, and what treatments there were on the market and their relative efficacy.
Since we are talking about one’s sight here it is important that we are aware of what to look out for. Even if at this moment in time you don’t have problems with AMD, it will pay you to follow my journey and take action to avoid or minimise its potential onset.
What is Age-Related Macular Degeneration?
Well, as you would imagine, it has to do with problems with the “macular” which is a part of the retina, the back of the eye responsible for many elements of your sight. In particular the macular is involved with the eye’s detailed vision and colour recognition. From here messages are transmitted to the brain for processing.
The “degeneration” part obviously implies that there is a gradual deterioration of that faculty. And the “age- related “part clearly indicates that the older you are the greater the risk. At the moment it affects about 1.75 million Americans and is set to increase rapidly as the population ages.
Just so we can get the overall picture is let’s have a look at the various types of AMD, as follows:
Dry (atrophic) form:
This is the most common form of which about 90% of sufferers have. It is characterised by the blurring of the central vision or what appears to be a blind spot in that location.
This is caused by deposits, called “drusen” forming in the eye. These are like very very small “dust” particles that build up in the eye and lead to the gradual degeneration of eyesight.
Dry macular degeneration often passes through three stages
Firstly there is early AMD where a few drusen appear and it is very unlikely that you will be aware of any of the ill effects.
Then there is intermediate AMD where the size of the drusen increase. Again it is unlikely that you will be aware of the symptoms although occasionally some see a blurred spot in the centre of their vision paragraph. Finally there is advanced AMD where a blurred spot in the central part of the vision gets bigger and darker and seriously affects your direct vision.
It is caused by a thickening of the membrane under the retina which then breaks. This disrupts the oxygen supply which the macular needs and instead abnormal blood vessels begin to grow which are very fragile and can leak blood and fluid into the eye eventually causing loss of vision.
Although not as frequent as dry macular degeneration it is more severe and progresses rapidly.
How Can AMD Be Detected?
There are a number of tests which can be conducted as follows:
Visual acuity test. This is a basic eye chart test which assesses your vision
Dilated eye exam. The doctor will dilate your pupils by putting drops in your eyes and then will the good the retina optic nerve running signs of problems.
Amsler grid. This is a special bridge and if you see distortion of any sort, even the lines disappearing this can give an early indication of AMD
Fluorescein angiogram. This is another tool where a dye is injected into the body and photographs taken of the eye as the dye passes through the blood vessels there. This particularly is helpful when it comes to wet AMD.