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Age-Related Macular Degeneration: Early Detection and Treatment
The eye specialists at the Eyecare Center of Ken Caryl are experts in identifying age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in its initial stages, often before symptoms or vision loss manifest. Although there is no cure for AMD, early diagnosis and treatment can minimize or even prevent vision loss.
Understanding age-related macular degeneration
AMD is a progressive eye condition that damages the macula, the area of the retina responsible for sharp, central vision. This damage can result in distorted or blurred central vision, making it difficult to recognize faces, read, or perform daily tasks. AMD is the primary cause of severe vision loss in people aged 50 and older.
Signs of age-related macular degeneration
Key symptoms of AMD include:
- Blurry or unclear vision
- A dark, empty area or a blind spot in the center of your vision
- Visual distortions, such as straight lines appearing wavy
- Poor vision in dim lighting
- Objects appearing smaller when viewed with one eye
Classifying age-related macular degeneration
AMD is classified into two types: dry and wet. The progression of the disease varies, occurring slowly over years or rapidly.
Dry age-related macular degeneration
Dry AMD is the more prevalent form, developing gradually due to the age-related breakdown of light-sensitive cells in the macula. Early stages of dry AMD typically have no noticeable symptoms. As the disease progresses to the intermediate stage, individuals may experience mild symptoms like blurry central vision or difficulty seeing in low light. In the late stages, distorted vision and dark spots in the central visual field may occur.
Wet age-related macular degeneration
Any stage of dry AMD can develop into wet AMD, but wet AMD always signifies the late stage of the disease. Wet AMD is characterized by abnormal blood vessel growth behind the retina, leading to fluid or blood leakage into the macula. Although wet AMD progresses more rapidly than dry AMD and generally results in more severe vision loss, both forms can cause permanent vision loss if left untreated.
The optometrists at Eyecare Center of Ken Caryl test for both dry and wet AMD. Atrophic or dry macular degeneration is the most common, comprising about 90% of cases, while exudative or wet macular degeneration is responsible for most cases of legal blindness.
Risk factors for age-related macular degeneration
Age is the primary risk factor for AMD, with those aged 50 and older being at higher risk than younger individuals. Other risk factors include a family history of AMD, Caucasian ethnicity, and smoking. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and excessive sun exposure without proper eye protection also raise the risk of developing AMD.
Regular comprehensive eye exams are crucial, particularly for those with a family history of AMD or other risk factors, as early stages of the disease often present no symptoms.
Treatment options for age-related macular degeneration
Though no treatments exist for dry AMD, nutritional supplements may slow disease progression and reduce the risk of developing late-stage or wet AMD.
In cases of wet AMD, symptoms typically appear suddenly and worsen rapidly. However, treatments such as photodynamic therapy, laser surgery, and anti-VEGF injections can help prevent vision loss. Your eye doctor at the Eyecare Center of Ken Caryl will evaluate your specific needs and suggest the most suitable treatment.
Regular comprehensive eye exams are essential for people of all ages, especially those at high risk of developing AMD. If it has been some time since your last eye exam, schedule a comprehensive eye exam at the Eyecare Center of Ken Caryl.