Age-Related Macular Degeneration
The Leading Cause of Vision Loss in People Over Fifty.
AMD is a disease of the macula, the center of the light-sensitive tissue lining the back of the eye. The macula is responsible for central vision, and when compromised, results in both distance and near vision loss. With 1.4 million Canadians affected, regular dilated eye exams are essential to maintaining eye health.
As AMD-related vision loss occurs gradually, many affected individuals fail to receive the testing necessary to preserve their vision. If you are at-risk for AMD, book a comprehensive dilated eye exam today.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) FAQ
Q: What is Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)?
A: AMD is a macular disease, marked by cell death, which causes central vision deterioration. The macula is part of the retina, which is the light-sensitive tissue lining the back of the eye. Located in the center of the retina, the macula consists of photoreceptors and is responsible for processing sharp, direct vision. AMD affects the macula’s light-sensing functionality, thus disrupting the ability to distinguish objects, and perform activities, such as reading and driving.
Q: What causes AMD?
A: Macular degeneration is caused by aging-related macular nerve damage. Although experts are still studying the link between aging and this damage, the process leading to this damage has been broken down by AMD type.
There are two types of AMD:
Dry macular degeneration is caused by aging-related macular cells breakdown. Waste deposits from this breakdown accumulate and eventually this buildup damages the macula. This is the most common form of AMD.
Wet macular degeneration occurs when an abnormally high growth factor causes new, fragile blood vessels to form under the macula. These vessels often break, leaking blood and fluid. This leakage inhibits the macula’s cells’ light-sensitive functioning, causing blind spots in central vision.
This form is much rarer than dry AMD.
Q: Who is at-risk for AMD?
A: Advanced age is the strongest risk factor for AMD, typically affecting individuals over fifty. AMD also exhibits a genetic link. Increased likelihood of developing the disease occurs in individuals with an afflicted immediate family member. Another demographic risk factor is gender. Females are more likely to develop AMD, which may be due to their elongated life expectancy, meaning females spend more time in advanced age. Race is also a factor. Caucasians are most likely to develop the disease, perhaps due to the association with lighter eye pigmentation. Lifestyle habits known to impact retinal oxygen flow are also risk factors. Such habits include smoking, high-glycemic diets, and inactivity.
Q: Can AMD be prevented?
A: With age as the greatest risk factor, there is no guaranteed AMD prevention. But maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise and a balanced vitamin-rich diet, can lower your risk. AMD’s link with smoking is proportional to the habit’s duration, so smoking cessation also lowers your risk. Regular eye exams to ensure early detection and treatment, especially for high-risk individuals, can prevent vision loss from the disease.
Q: How is AMD detected?
A: Ophthalmologists use the following tests to diagnose AMD and confirm its stage of advancement. As AMD is incurable, early detection is essential to prevent vision loss.
Comprehensive Dilated Eye Exam. A dilated eye exam assesses your retina, including the macula. Dr. Conlon can perform this exam and observe any changes in the back of the eye, looking primarily for the pigment changes in the macula, and the presence of drusen.
Drusen are one of the most common early signs of AMD. Drusen are tiny clumps of lipid waste deposited at the bottom of the retina. They do not cause AMD, but are linked with AMD development.
Amsler Grid. Often used in AMD detection, this grid identifies vision loss areas. The square-shaped grid consists of vertical and horizontal lines, aligning to form perfect squares. A patient focuses on a large dot in the middle of the grid. If the grid appears distorted, blurry, wavy or broken, this is an indication of AMD. Repeating this test is useful in follow-up, to monitor the progression of AMD.
Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT). This technique captures cross-sectional retinal images using light waves. These images measure retinal layer thickness, and identify drusen, new blood vessels and hemorrhaging. Ophthalmologists use OCT to diagnose macular degeneration and to identify the most suitable treatment options based on the findings.
If necessary, Dr. Conlon can also refer patients to a retinal specialist for more extensive testing, including Fluorescein Angiography, which identifies specific leakages.
Q: What symptoms does AMD cause?
A: AMD causes subtle vision loss, resulting in few noticeable early symptoms. The first symptom is usually blurriness in the centre of your vision. For wet AMD, an early symptom is the waving of straight lines. The condition progressively causes blurriness overcome by dark spots, causing central vision loss in severe cases. Due to the tenuous nature of early-stage AMD, routine eye examinations, conducted by Dr. Conlon and associated Retinal Specialists, are essential for detection.
Q: Does AMD cause blindness?
A: AMD does not cause total blindness. Due to the macula’s position and functioning, macular degeneration primarily causes central vision loss. AMD usually does not interfere with peripheral vision, even in advanced cases.
Q: How is AMD treated?
A: Current treatment focuses on delaying disease progression but does not entirely cure AMD. The course of treatment depends on the type of AMD present.
Dry Macular Degeneration. No treatment can prevent vision loss in advanced stage dry AMD. Treatment can delay the progression of the condition’s earlier stages. Nutritional intervention has proven effective in this regard, with effective supplements including vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and zinc oxide. Please consult Dr. Conlon for supplementation advice.
Wet Macular Degeneration. Aimed at stopping the formation of abnormal blood vessels, treatments for this form of AMD include laser surgery, photodynamic therapy, and anti-VEGF therapy eye injections.
Q: Can treatment restore vision?
A: Treatment can delay or prevent further vision loss, but cannot reverse any loss that has already occurred. Prevention is key in managing AMD.