Behind glaucoma and cataracts, AMD, or Age-related Macular Degeneration is one of the major causes of vision loss for Canadians over the age of 65. The macula itself is a small portion of your retina that handles the “straight ahead” portion of vision by using a tight group of cone-shaped that absorb light along their length.
There are two primary types of AMD:
- Dry Macular Degeneration, or non-neovascular: This type of AMD is when the macular cells begin to degrade and fail, or if there is damage via disease or trauma to the retina. This type of AMD is diagnosed in about 90% of all AMD cases.
- Wet Macular Degeneration, or neovascular: This type of AMD is when new blood vessels form behind the retina and push out against the retina, or leak fluid into the retinal space in the rear of the eye. This type of AMD is far more advanced, and can cause scarring in the eye, which leads to significant visual impairment and possible blindness.
Depending on which type of macular degeneration that is occurring, two differing sets of symptoms may present themselves.
For Dry AMD, the following symptoms may present over a long period of time, usually over the course of a few years:
- Central vision loss in one or both eyes
- Difficulty reading or focusing on small items
- Decreased vision in dim light situations
- Warping or distorting vision around a central point in vision
For Wet AMD, the following symptoms usually present in a short period of time, in the range of months to a year:
- Reduced colour vision
- Significant worsening of symptoms in a short period of time
- Blurred vision spots in the straight ahead field of view
- Reduced central vision in one or both eyes
At this point in time, there is no known cure for AMD, as there are only a finite number of macular cells in the retina, and once damage has begun, it is irreversible. Delayed onset can be managed with a combination of diet, including proper nutrition and supplementation, as well as lifestyle choices such as smoking, obesity, and exercise.
Common treatments include vitamin infused eye drops, oral supplementation, and vision therapy to learn to cope with any vision loss once it begins to occur.