As the name suggests, age-related macular degeneration (or AMD) is an eye disease which progresses with age. Most common in people over 50 years of age, AMD is a vision-threatening illness for which there is no actual cure: if any amount of your vision is stolen by the disease, then it cannot be recovered.
However, even in the earliest stages, there are always warning signs. The expert independent optometrist working at Woodstock Optical – Dr. Kassam – have cutting-edge technology at the ready which is used to thoroughly examine your eye health. If any of the tell-tale signs of AMD are present, they will immediately take steps to advise you on how to proceed. This early detection could mean that your vision is virtually unaffected despite the disease being present!
AMD can affect anyone, and those over 50 are the most at risk. That said, there is strong evidence that smokers run a higher-than-average risk. The disease is also more prevalent in White and Asian people, due to genetics.
Unfortunately, AMD is a cruel disease and shows very few noticeable symptoms until it is quite progressed. Those affected will begin to slowly lose their central vision. This slow progression means that many people who do not attend annual eye exams fail to realise their vision has been compromised until they are substantially affected.
There are two variants of the disease: atrophic (or “dry” AMD) and exudative (“wet” AMD).
In about 90% of cases, patients suffer from atrophic AMD. There is a steady buildup of a white protein (called drusen) underneath the retina which can interfere with vision. This is a natural process which happens due to the ageing macula, the part of the retina responsible for sharp central vision.
Only affecting 10% of patients, this form of AMD is far more serious and can leave a patient with permanent vision loss. Here, weak and poorly-formed blood vessels can grow beneath the retina, eventually leaking blood and other fluids into the eye.
The independent optometrist at Woodstock Optical will use advanced imaging technology – namely Ocular Coherence Tomography (OCT) and retinal imaging – to examine your eye in exceptional detail. If any abnormal blood vessels, drusen, or leaking fluids are found, a diagnosis can be made.
The diagnosis is confirmed if your visual acuity is consistent with AMD, i.e. an impairment of the central vision. This will be assessed during the eye exam, so we’ll know very quickly and can give the appropriate advice as soon as possible.
Since the disease cannot be cured, it is necessary to make lifestyle adjustments and implement management techniques which allow us to live with the disease. Research suggests that some specific changes to diet can help limit the progression of the disease, while tools like magnifying lenses can help retain reading vision.
For wet AMD, laser surgery can be used to destroy abnormal blood vessels before they leak into your vision, which again can help halt its progression.