Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a painless eye condition that generally leads to the gradual loss of central vision but can sometimes cause a rapid reduction in vision.
In AMD, your central vision becomes increasingly blurred, leading to symptoms such as:
- difficulty reading because the text appears blurry
- colours appearing less vibrant
- difficulty recognising people’s faces
AMD usually affects both eyes, but the speed at which it progresses can vary from eye to eye.
AMD does not affect the peripheral vision (outer vision), which means it will not cause complete blindness.
If you notice that your vision is getting gradually worse, you should see your make an appointment to see your optician.
If your vision suddenly gets worse, images are distorted or you notice blind spots in your field of vision you should make an appointment to see your optician as soon as possible. We will then assess your vision as we can arrange for you to be seen at the rapid access macular degeration clinic at the hospital if required.
There are two main types of AMD, called ‘dry AMD’ and ‘wet AMD’.
Dry AMD develops when the cells of the macula become damaged as a result of a build-up of waste products called drusen. It is the most common and least serious type of AMD, accounting for around nine out of 10 cases. The loss of vision is gradual, occurring over many years. However, an estimated one in 10 people with dry AMD will then go on to develop wet AMD.
Wet AMD develops when abnormal blood vessels form underneath the macula and damage its cells. Wet AMD is more serious and without treatment, vision can deteriorate within days.
AMD is the leading cause of visual impairment in the UK, affecting up to 500,000 people to some degree. AMD tends to be more common in women than men. It is also more common in white people and people of Chinese ethnicity than people from other ethnic groups.
As would be expected by its name, age is one of the most important risk factors for AMD. The condition is most common in people over 50 and it’s estimated that one in every 10 people over 65 have some degree of AMD.
However, you may be able to reduce your risk of developing AMD, or help prevent it getting worse, by:
- stopping smoking if you smoke
- eating a healthy diet high with plenty of fruit and vegetables
- moderating your consumption of alcohol
- trying to achieve or maintain a healthy weight
- wearing UV-absorbing glasses when outside for long periods
There is currently no cure for either type of AMD.
With dry AMD, treatment is mostly based on helping a person make the most of their remaining vision, such as using magnifying lenses to help make reading easier.
There is also some evidence to suggest that a diet rich in green leafy vegetables may slow the progression of dry AMD. Nutritional supplements are also available.
Wet AMD can be treated with a type of medication called anti-VEGF medication, which aims to stop your vision getting worse by helping prevent further blood vessels developing. Early diagnosis and treatment of wet AMD is essential in reducing the risk of severe loss of vision.