Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a problem with your central retina. It happens when a part of the retina called the macula is damaged. With AMD you can lose your central vision.
You cannot see fine details, whether you are looking at something close or far, but your peripheral (side) vision will still be normal. For instance, imagine you are looking at a clock with hands. With AMD, you might see the clock’s numbers but not the hands.
In early stages, AMD may have no symptoms at all. Symptoms that can appear as the disease progresses are distortion (bending) of straight lines, a decrease in the intensity or brightness of colors, blurred or distorted central vision or a gradual or sudden loss of center vision. Peripheral vision is usually not affected, and therefore complete visual impairment usually can be avoided.
Macular degeneration often emerges in only one eye, making it difficult to notice vision loss because the better eye takes over. The disease is detected through a comprehensive eye exam. There are two forms of macular degeneration; wet and dry. If signs of the dry form are discovered, a patient will be encouraged to stop smoking and take antioxidant vitamins.
The wet form of macular degeneration is treatable with a relatively painless technique that injects specially developed medications into the eye. They inhibit the growth of new blood vessels and work to dry up excess fluid within the retina.
There is no treatment for dry macular degeneration, though the Age-Related Eye Disease Studies (AREDS), conducted by the National Eye Institute, found a nutritional supplement formula may delay and prevent intermediate dry AMD from moving to the advanced wet form.
The AREDS-2 supplement formula, which is widely available over the counter, contains:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
Although patients with either form of AMD may experience a severe decrease in visual acuity, they will almost never be completely blind.
Visual loss can be slowed down and sometimes reversed with early detection and treatment. Even with the disease, however, patients can still maintain a normal lifestyle.