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Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)

AMD is the main cause of visual disability in industrialized countries.

 

If you notice the following symptoms, please consult an ophthalmologist as soon as possible, as they may point to age-related macular degeneration:

 

Blurring of the central vision or more specifically:

  • loss of visual acuity, words in a book may become blurred or it gets difficult to recognize faces

  • loss of contrast sensitivity, colours fade

  • distortion of the central vision, straight lines appear crooked

What is…

AMD occurs, when a critical region of the retina, called the macula, is damaged or deteriorates. The macula is an oval, pigmented spot near the center of the retina, responsible for high-resolution vision. The retina itself is a layer at the back of the eye that contains cells sensitive to light. It sends pictures of what the eye sees to the brain. The disorder leads to irreversible loss of central vision, although peripheral vision is retained. AMD is not curable.

AMD.jpg

 

There are two types of macular degeneration:


Dry AMD (or ”atrophic” AMD) is the more common subtype, affecting about 90% of people, who have this condition. A small minority has the wet (or “exudative”) form that often affects people, who have a previous history of dry AMD.

 

Causes

Dry AMD is caused by aging and thinning of the tissues of the macula. This allows drusen material (waste material from retinal cells) to accumulate under the retina.


Wet AMD occurs, when abnormal blood vessels start growing underneath the retina.

Risk Factors

You have a higher risk for AMD, when you are over the age of 60, smoke, are obese, have hypertension, have a genetic predisposition or are of female gender.

Diagnosis

If you detect any of the symptoms mentioned above, please consult an ophthalmologist as soon as possible for examination.

 

Your ophthalmologist is likely to carry out a funduscopy (examination of retina) after pupillary dilatation. Classification of AMD and treatment options may require the running of certain, additional tests, e.g. a fluorescein angiography (FAG) or the ocular coherence tomography (OCT).

Treatment

AMD is not curable, but even if it may affect your visual acuity and thus e.g. your reading, it never causes total blindness, since the surrounding visual field remains undisturbed. With new treatment modalities progression of the disease may be slowed down, stopped, and sometimes even improved.

 

By taking high doses of certain antioxidants (C- and E-vitamins, copper, zinc and beta-carotene*), you may reduce the risk of progression of pre-existing dry AMD. Recently it was recommended to optimize this formulation by substitution of beta carotene with the macula carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin*. There is also some evidence that diet containing enough omega-3 fatty acids and lutein and zeaxanthin may indicate lower risk for AMD.

Currently there is no medicine to treat dry AMD. In case you suffer from the wet form of AMD presenting more severe and rapid visual impairment and subjective impact, there are several alternatives for treatment such as direct laser treatments, photodynamic therapy or injections into the eye.

 

*according to ARED-studies