Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye disease that may get worse over time. It’s the leading cause of severe, permanent vision loss in people over age 60.
It happens when the small central portion of your retina, called the macula, wears down. The retina is the light-sensing nerve tissue at the back of your eye.
Because the disease happens as you get older, it’s often called age-related macular degeneration. It usually doesn’t cause blindness but might cause severe vision problems.
SYMPTOMS OF MACULAR DEGENERATION
Early on, you might not have any noticeable signs of macular degeneration. It might not be diagnosed until it gets worse or affects both eyes.
Symptoms of macular degeneration may include:
Worse or less clear vision. Your vision might be blurry, and it may be hard to read fine print or drive.
Dark, blurry areas in the center of your vision
Rarely, worse or different color perception
If you have any of these symptoms, go to an eye doctor as soon as possible.
CAUSES OF MACULAR DEGENERATION
Age-related macular degeneration is more common in older people. It’s the leading cause of severe vision loss in adults over 60.
Macular degeneration may have something to do with your genes. If someone in your family has it, your risk might be higher.
Smoking, having high blood pressure or high cholesterol, obesity, eating lots of saturated fat, being light-skinned, being female, and having a light eye color are also risk factors.
HOW IS MACULAR DEGENERATION DIAGNOSED
A routine eye exam can spot age-related macular degeneration. One of the most common early signs is drusen — tiny yellow spots under your retina — or pigment clumping. Your doctor can see these when they examine your eyes.
Your doctor may also ask you to look at an Amsler grid, a pattern of straight lines that resembles a checkerboard. Some of the straight lines may appear wavy to you, or you may notice that some of the lines are missing. These can be signs of macular degeneration.
If your doctor finds age-related macular degeneration, you may have a procedure called angiography or one called OCT. In angiography, your doctor injects dye into a vein in your arm. They take photographs as the dye flows through the blood vessels in your retina. If there are new vessels or vessels leaking fluid or blood in your macula, the photos will show their exact location and type. OCT is able to see fluid or blood underneath your retina without dye.
It’s important to see your eye doctor regularly to find signs of macular degeneration early. Treatment can slow the condition or make it less severe.