Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
Age related Macular-Degeneration (AMD)
Age-related macular degeneration is a painless eye condition that leads to the gradual loss of central vision.
With our ageing population, and about 600,000 people in the UK having sight loss caused by AMD, with 70,000 new cases diagnosed each year (that’s nearly 200 every day), it is sadly the most common cause of sight loss in the UK.
The macula is a small, but extremely critical area located at the centre of the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. It is responsible for seeing fine-details clearly.
AMD affects your central vision only, here you lose the ability to see fine details, both close and at a distance. For instance, when a person with AMD looks at a wall clock, they may well be able to see the clock’s outline but be unable to see to tell the time. Similarly, they gradually lose the ability to recognise people’s faces.
AMD usually affects both eyes, but the speed at which it progresses can vary from eye to eye.
Macular degeneration develops when the part of the eye responsible for central vision (the macula) is unable to function effectively. AMD does not affect side, or peripheral, vision as this usually remains normal. AMD will not cause complete blindness.
It’s unclear what causes the macula to deteriorate, but getting older, smoking and a family history of AMD are known to increase the risk of developing the condition.
There are two types of age-related macular degeneration:
This develops when the cells of the macula become damaged due to a lack of nutrients and build-up of waste products, called drusen. With dry AMD loss of vision is gradual, occurring over many years.
There is currently no cure for dry AMD, so treatment mainly comprises helping patients make the most of their remaining vision, by using low vision aids.
However, an estimated 1 in 10 people with dry AMD will then go on to develop wet AMD.
Wet AMD develops when abnormal blood vessels form underneath the macula layer and damage its cells.
This is a more serious condition that without treatment, vision can deteriorate within days. Thankfully, the NHS has a fast track referral system to insure prompt treatment that can be accessed by your optometrist.
Wet AMD can be treated with medication to help prevent further blood vessels developing. Laser surgery can also be used to destroy these abnormal blood vessels.
Treatment for wet AMD does not always lead to improved vision but can prevent immediate further loss of sight. There is currently no long-term cure for wet AMD.
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