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Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

Macular Degeneration or Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is a name given to a group of chronic and degenerative retinal eye diseases. It is the most common cause of blindness in the world at the moment. As its name implies, it is associated with ageing and cannot be reversed. It is caused by a deficiency in the recycling process of waste products in the part of the retina responsible for our central vision called the macula. The waste material builds up in the retina and causes distortions in the macular and thus also the vision. It almost always occurs after the age of 40 but early onset macular degeneration does also occur although less commonly. AMD produces a painless and progressive loss of central vision that can be quite debilitating as our central vision is what we rely upon for everyday tasks such as driving, watching TV, reading and even recognizing faces amongst other things.

Early and intermediate stages:

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.

Late stage:

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.

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