Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD), which is commonly referred to as macular degeneration, usually affects people above the age of fifty although younger people can also suffer from macular disorders such as macular dystrophy, a genetically transferred condition. Macular degeneration in case of younger people, however, is very rare. Diabetic patients are at risk of contracting a variety of AMD called diabetic maculopathy.
There are two major varieties of AMD—wet AMD and dry AMD. Wet AMD is a condition in which new blood vessels are formed in the retina, which leads to leakage of fluid, bleeding, and scarring. Laser treatment is prescribed for this variety of AMD.
In case of dry AMD, new blood vessels are not produced. If AMD is detected in its earliest stages, it can be easily brought under control for some patients. In majority of the cases, however, AMD cannot be cured.
Dry AMD is more common that AMD, and if neglected, it leads to wet AMD. In case of dry AMD, the photosensitive macular cells degenerate and the patient complains of blurry vision.
In its earliest stages, dry AMD hardly has any symptoms, which is why patients must undergo frequent eye examinations. In its later stages, it causes blurry vision and objects no longer appear as bright as they once used to.
One of the major signs of dry AMD is drusen, a whitish yellow deposit in the retina, which can be lesser or greater in quantity depending on the intensity of the condition. Drusen does not cause vision loss, but it definitely indicates that the patient is at the risk of developing severe AMD, which causes irreversible loss of eyesight.
Patients suffering from dry AMD will require more light for reading and working and will find it very difficult to recognize people.
Wet AMD is an abnormal eye condition in which blood vessels start forming under the macula. Being abnormal, these blood vessels are weak and tend to break, leading to discharge of fluid and blood, which damages the macula further. Straight lines look like wavy lines for a person who is suffering from the earliest stages of wet AMD.
How AMD Affects Vision
Initially, AMD affects only one eye and patients might not realize anything is wrong because the other eye functions well. They may notice that their central vision is diminished, making it difficult for them to view the finer details of an object. Straight lines look like wavy lines, heights and distances cannot be judged properly, shades of color cannot be identified, and intense lights are required for reading and other purposes. In brief, you will find it difficult to read, view TV, recognize faces, cross the street, count money, and do a dozen other things that require good eyesight.
AMD patients do not become completely blind, but they do lose central vision. The peripheral vision, however, remains normal enabling them to do their daily work.
AMD cannot be completely cured, but it can definitely be controlled and its progress can be arrested. The effectiveness of the treatment plan depends on the level to which the disorder has progressed.
The FDA has not yet approved any treatment for dry AMD, although certain nutritional supplements can be taken to prevent it from progressing to wet AMD.
Treatment for wet AMD usually aims at stopping the growth of abnormal blood vessels beneath the macula and the retina. Certain drugs approved by the FDA, such as Eylea, Lucentis, Visudyne, and others are prescribed. The eye care specialist may also suggest that the patient undergo a procedure called Photdynamic Therapy (PDT).