Macular Degeneration, also known as Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), encompasses a group of chronic and degenerative retinal diseases that significantly impair central vision. Regrettably, it currently stands as the leading cause of blindness worldwide. As its name suggests, AMD is closely associated with the aging process and, unfortunately, cannot be reversed.
The condition arises from a deficiency in the recycling process of waste products within the macula, the central region of the retina responsible for sharp, detailed vision. Accumulation of these waste materials leads to distortions in the macula, consequently affecting central vision. While AMD typically manifests after the age of 40, early onset cases can also occur, albeit less frequently.
One of the most distressing aspects of AMD is its painless and progressive nature, resulting in a gradual loss of central vision over time. This deterioration can significantly impact daily activities that rely heavily on central vision, such as driving, reading, and recognizing faces.
Given the debilitating nature of AMD, early detection and intervention are paramount in preserving remaining vision and maintaining quality of life. Regular eye examinations are crucial, particularly for individuals over the age of 40, as they enable timely diagnosis and implementation of appropriate management strategies to help mitigate the progression of the disease.
The early stage of the disease generally does not have a significant impact on vision. As we progress to intermediary disease, some people may notice a change to their central vision.
As yet there is no proven treatment for early and intermediate disease although some optometrists advocate the use of nutritional supplements containing antioxidants and various other minerals may improve the recycling process. Changes to diet and lifestyle are also important factors in minimizing risk of progression. Smoking has been strongly linked to the cause of AMD.
This stage produces a significant reduction to vision and can be divided into dry (atrophic) or wet (neovascular) forms.
The dry form generally produces a gradual loss of central vision and may vary from mild to severe. As yet there is no proven treatment for dry AMD.
The wet form is more debilitating producing a rapid loss of central vision and commonly a blind spot in the central vision. The damage is caused by leakage of new blood vessels which grow into the macula causing scar tissue formation. Ocular injections may be required to limit the damage the bleeding causes.
The earlier the detection and diagnosis of AMD is made, the better the prognosis for successful treatment and management. People with AMD need to be monitored closely particularly those with the wet form so as to improve the likelihood of early treatment.