Age-related macular degeneration is also known as AMD. Yet, it is a very common condition of the eye, and one of the main reasons that can cause loss of vision among patients that are older than fifty years.
Generally, it can cause damage to a patient’s macula, a tiny spot allocated near the retina’s center, a part of the eye controlling the central sharp vision to see things straight ahead.
This condition in some patients may advance very slowly and loss of vision can only occur after a long period of time. On the other hand, if it progresses faster, it can lead to vision loss in either one or even both eyes.
With progression, common symptoms can be a blurred area close to the vision’s center. As time goes by, this blurring can grow bigger or the patient might even experience spots that are blank in their central vision, and objects might also appear faded.
However, AMD won’t cause a patient to go completely blind. Although, it can cause central vision loss which will interfere in normal activities every day. Activities like the ability to write, read, drive, see people’s faces or performing certain tasks, such as fix things in and around the home or cooking.
About the macula
It’s the part of the eye that provides central sharp vision with millions of cells that are light-sensing. Additionally, it’s also a part of the retina that is most sensitive. The macula is located behind the eye. The retina changes the light that comes in, into electrical signals which are then sent to the brain through the eye’s optic nerve. Here it’s translated into specific images of what we see. With damage to the macula, the center field of view can appear dark, blurry or distorted.
Macular degeneration stages
The stages of AMD are as follows:
Because people don’t experience loss of vision in their early stages, it’s important to go for eye exams regularly. Generally, the condition can be diagnosed through medium-sized deposits of yellow underneath the retina, which is also known as drusen.
An intermediate stage
By this time, you can experience some loss of vision, although, there might still not be any symptoms that are noticeable. The doctor will do a comprehensive exam of the eye with certain tests and look for pigment changes in their retina or/and bigger drusen.
The late stage
This is when the people experience noticeable loss of vision.
Who can be at risk to develop AMD?
Here are some risk factors that commonly can cause the development of this disease:
It’s the most common reason, as people older than sixty years of age are more prone to develop this disease which may cause loss of vision.
Inactivity and obesity
Patients that are overweight and inactive will be at a much higher risk to develop AMD in its advanced form compared to those with a normal weight and who is very active.
Studies have shown that the risk factor to develop this disease and the severity of it can be much higher if it’s heredity. If anyone in the family suffers from this condition, it’s recommended to the family to get checked out at an early age.
Hypertension (high blood pressure)
Studies reported results that hypertension might be associated with the developing of AMD.
This can be a major risk factor in developing AMD, which may lead to severe loss of vision. Through some studies, it also is shown that patients living with smokers are at double the risk of developing the condition.
Patients with eye color that is lighter
Macular degeneration seems to occur much more among patients with light eye and skin color. Researchers believe that people with dark eyes have extra pigmentation in their eyes, which is a protective factor in developing the disease when they are exposed to the sun. However, there isn’t any evidence that is conclusive in linking excessive exposure to the sun in causing AMD.
Side effects due to drugs
Certain cases of AMD might have been induced due to side effects from toxic drugs like Phenothiazine or Aralen. Phenothiazine an anti-psychotic drug might include some brand names such as Thorazine, Mellaril, Prolixin, Stelazine, and Trilafon which could be harmful.
If you notice any distortion of vision, blotches or spots, it is best to consult your eye doctor.