Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss in Canada. Almost 1.5 million Canadians live with AMD, a degeneration of the macula, which is the part of the retina responsible for sharp vision. As the macula degenerates, sufferers are less able to see objects clearly, making it difficult to do ordinary tasks like drive or read. Here’s everything you need to know about diagnosing and treating macular degeneration:
AMD is a gradual condition, with vision quality deteriorating over time. The earlier the condition is diagnosed, the earlier treatment can begin and further degeneration can be avoided. Symptoms of macular degeneration include a gradual loss of the ability to clearly make out objects, and a gradual loss of the ability to see and make out different colours. Macular degeneration is also associated with distortion and blurring of vision, darkness or a blind spot in the centre of vision, and visible wavy lines. If you have any of these symptoms, visit your eye doctor immediately.
Wet vs. Dry Macular Degeneration
Dry macular degeneration (non-neovascular) is the most common form. It can result from aging/thinning macular tissues or pigment deposits in the macula. Your eye doctor may diagnose the condition if yellow spots (drusen) accumulate in and around the macula. Wet macular degeneration (neovascular) is a more serious and advanced form of the disease. It is caused when new blood vessels grow beneath the retina and leak out blood and flood, damaging retinal cells. This damage leads to blind spots in your vision.
Macular degeneration is commonly associated with aging (hence the term age-related macular degeneration). Scientific evidence suggests that there is also a genetic deficiency associated with as many as half of all cases of AMD. AMD is also associated with obesity, inactivity, hypertension, smoking, and as a side effect of drugs.
There is no cure for macular degeneration, but the symptoms can be treated and the pace of vision loss can be slowed. Treatments depend on how advanced the condition is, and whether you suffered from dry or wet macular degeneration. Visit your eye doctor to find out about your available treatment options. Nutritional changes can also help both conditions. Salmon and other coldwater fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, while leafy greens like kale and spinach are high in lutein and zeaxanthin. These nutrients can help protect your eyes from AMD.
As you age, make sure to visit your eye doctor regularly to test for early signs of AMD.