Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, is a condition that affects millions of people worldwide, particularly those over the age of 50. It is a leading cause of vision loss in older adults. AMD can cause severe and permanent damage to the retina if left untreated. It affects the macula, the small but essential part of the retina responsible for sharp, central vision.
AMD occurs when the macula deteriorates over time, causing visual distortions, blurred vision, and total vision loss in some cases. The condition comprises two types: dry and wet AMD. Dry AMD is the most common form. It results from the buildup of debris known as drusen in the macula.
Wet AMD is less common but more severe, characterized by the growth of abnormal blood vessels in the retina that leaks blood and fluid.
The symptoms of AMD are often subtle and can go unnoticed. As the condition progresses, you may experience the following:
Distorted or blurred central vision
Difficulty adapting to low light conditions
Difficulty reading or performing tasks that require fine detail work
Straight lines appear crooked or wavy
Colors appear faded or less vibrant
A blind spot in the center of the field of vision
AMD risk factors include age, genetics, and lifestyle factors. The condition is more prevalent in individuals over 50, and the risk increases with age. Genetics also plays a significant role. People with a family history of AMD have a higher risk of developing the condition. Lifestyle factors like smoking, obesity, and a poor diet can increase the risk of AMD.
A comprehensive eye exam is the most effective way to diagnose AMD.
During the exam, your ophthalmologist or optometrist will evaluate several aspects of your eye, including visual acuity, intraocular pressure, and the health of your retina. The exam will include the following tests:
Visual acuity test - It measures the sharpness of your central vision using an eye chart
Dilated eye exam - Your optometrist or ophthalmologist will administer eye drops to dilate the pupils, allowing for a better retina view. They will then use a specialized lens to examine the retina for signs of AMD like drusen, pigment changes, and abnormal blood vessels.
Amsler grid test - This test entails staring at a grid of lines to determine if any appear wavy or distorted, which can be a sign of AMD
Optical coherence tomography (OCT) - This test uses light waves to create a detailed image of the retina, allowing for the detection of early signs of AMD
Fluorescein angiography - This test entails injecting a dye into the arm; the dye then travels to the blood vessels in your retina. A specialized camera takes images of the retina, highlighting any abnormal blood vessels that may be present in wet AMD.
Genetic testing can also help diagnose AMD, particularly for people with a family history of AMD. It entails analyzing your blood sample to determine if you carry any genetic markers associated with AMD.
Self-assessment is not a substitute for comprehensive eye exams. However, it can help in detecting the early signs of AMD. You can use an Amsler grid at home to monitor any changes in central vision.
Other self-assessment tools include using an app that allows individuals to take pictures of their retinas and track changes over time. However, it is vital to note that self-assessment should not replace regular comprehensive eye exams.
For more about AMD, visit Frisco Eye Clinic & Williams Eye Care at our office in Frisco or Fairview, Texas. Call (972) 335-9529 or (972) 549-4255 to book an appointment today.