What is macula degeneration?
Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the most common cause of loss of central vision in patients over the age of 50.
It is a condition in which damage occurs to the central area of the retina at the back of the eye, called the ‘macula’.
What are the symptoms?
Patients may find it difficult to read, recognise people’s faces and to drive. Colours also sometimes appear less vibrant. However, AMD does not affect the peripheral vision, which means it will never cause complete loss of eyesight.
Common early symptoms of AMD are blurring or distortion of central vision.
Are there different types of AMD?
There are 2 types – ‘dry’ and ‘wet’.
Dry AMD is the most common form, and is characterized by damage to a layer of cells (called the retinal pigment epithelium) just underneath the retina. This layer of cells is crucial for the function of the overlying retinal cells which then degenerate and die. Typically, dry AMD is a very gradual process.
Wet AMD is much less common. However, it is likely to cause more severe visual loss over quite a short period of time – sometimes just months. In wet AMD, in addition to the retinal pigment cells degenerating, new tiny blood vessels grow into the retina. These vessels are fragile and tend to leak blood and fluid. This can damage the retinal cells, leading to scarring in the macula and further visual loss.
What should I do if I think I may have AMD?
Visit your optician or GP immediately if you develop sudden loss of vision or visual distortion.
They will be able to refer you immediately to the hospital. Prompt treatment can prevent severe and irreversible loss of vision.