Macula is the light-sensitive part of the eye which is situated near the center of the retina. It is responsible for the central vision. Therefore, any macula issues lead to blurriness of vision. A person with intermediate macular degeneration cannot see fine details clearly, while severe forms of the degeneration can lead to important vision loss.
Age-related macular degeneration (also known as AMD) usually develops over the years and is found in three stages.
The early stage is often not noticed by the patient and can only be diagnosed by a doctor. If left untreated, the AMD advances to an intermediate stage, which causes some vision loss. Finally, late AMD leads to severe vision loss and even partial blindness in one or both eyes.
Late AMD can be classified in two types: dry and wet
– Dry degeneration happens when part of the macular light-sensitive cells become atrophied. This type of AMD causes gradual vision loss and is the most common one.
– Wet AMD is caused by the growth of abnormal blood vessels under the retina. Those can leak blood and other fluids, which might cause rapid and observable damage to the macula.
How is it diagnosed?
It is recommended to have your eyes checked once a year. Early AMD stages don’t have any noticeable symptoms, yet they can be diagnosed by a specialist.
An ophthalmologist/optometrist will often perform one or more test in order to determine the presence of AMD. A visual acuity test is often performed at first to spot the most notable symptoms. Other tests include dilated eye exams and Amsler grid. There’s also an advanced diagnosis methodology that is called “optical coherence tomography”. It uses light waves to capture high-resolution images of your macular tissues.
On the other hand, if there are possibilities of wet AMD, a fluorescein angiogram test is performed in order to spot leaking blood vessels. This test uses a fluorescent dye that is injected into the arm and recorded as the dye makes it way through the blood vessels in the eye.
What are the symptoms?
Early stage AMD can be only diagnosed by a specialist. Its only symptom is the presence of medium-sized drusen, which are yellow deposits beneath the retina, about 0.1 mm in diameter.
Intermediate stage symptoms include slight vision loss and the presence of larger drusen along with possible retinal pigment changes.
Late AMD symptoms include vision blurring, dark spots, straight lines of surrounding objects appearing bent (this last one can be diagnosed by performing the Amsler grid test). The symptoms can start in one eye, yet they might also develop in both.
Who is at risk?
Besides age (which is the main risk of factor), there are other risk factors:
– Smoking doubles the risk of AMD.
– Race: Caucasians are proven to suffer from AMD more often than Hispanics or African-Americans.
– Genetics: there are at least 20 genes, known for increasing risks for developing AMD.
People who follow a healthy diet rich in leafy, green vegetables, fish, exercise regularly and maintain low cholesterol levels have reduced risks in developing AMD.
How many are affected by AMD
AMD is one of the most usual age-related vision problems. It affects 1.75 million people in the US and 2.5 million in Europe.
The Bottom Line
AMD can be slowed down or in some cases even prevented, if diagnosed in time. Since it has few early symptoms, it’s important to have your eyes examined regularly, especially if you’re part of the risk groups. Sticking to a healthy lifestyle might help you to further reduce the risk of developing AMD.
A Promising Future
Research on treatment with microcurrent has been published by Dr. Laurie Chaikin. Her research and protocol has promising positive results using frequency specific microcurrent. To read more on her research, visit the DovePress website. Dr. Chaikin’s website is www.optorehab.com.