Macular Degeneration Diagnosis and Co-Management
Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, is an eye disease that blurs your central vision. People who have AMD can’t see things directly in front of them, but still have their peripheral vision. Having AMD affects your ability to drive, see faces, read, or other common activities.
AMD occurs when aging causes damage to the macula, which is the back part of the retina which controls central vision. Age-related macular degeneration is a common eye disease and is the leading cause of vision loss. This disease can develop in one eye or both eyes.
Types of Age-Related Macular Degeneration
There are two types of age-related macular degeneration: dry AMD and wet AMD.
- Dry age-related macular degeneration is the most common type of the disease. Dry AMD occurs when the macula gets thinner because of the aging process. There are three stages of Dry AMD: early, intermediate, and late. People who are in the early stages of dry AMD may not notice any vision loss for an extended period, up to several years, so they don’t realize they have the disease. The only way to catch it in the early stages is through a comprehensive eye exam. There is no treatment for late-stage dry AMD.
- Wet AMD is less common, but this type of the disease causes vision loss much faster than dry AMD. This type of AMD occurs when blood vessels grow abnormally and damage the macula. There are treatment options for Wet AMD.
Symptoms of Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration is a progressive eye disease, which means symptoms will get worse over time. In the early stage of dry AMD, there are no symptoms. Intermediate dry AMD may cause mild symptoms such as blurry vision or trouble driving at night or seeing in low light. In late-stage AMD, you may notice a blurry area in your central vision, and colors will seem less vivid. You may also see straight lines appear wavy. If you have this symptom, please contact the eye care team at Decatur Family Eye Care as soon as possible.
Risk Factors for Age-Related Macular Degeneration
The risk to develop age-related macular degeneration increases as you age. People over the age of 55 are more likely to have age-related macular degeneration. Other risk factors to develop AMD include:
- Family history of age-related macular degeneration
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- High sun exposure
- Being overweight
- Poor diet low in antioxidants
People can lower their risk of developing AMD by not smoking, getting regular exercise, maintaining healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and eating healthy foods including leafy green vegetables and fish.
Diagnosing Age-Related Macular Degeneration
The doctors at Decatur Family Eye Care utilize the latest in technology to conduct tests to properly diagnose eye diseases, including age-related macular degeneration.
Your doctor at Decatur Family Eye Care may ask you to look at an Amsler grid. This is a simple square which contains a grid pattern with straight lines and a dot in the middle, and when used correctly, can show blurry, distorted, or blank spots in your vision.
Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT)
During the eye exam, your doctor may utilize optical coherence tomography (OCT) to look closely at the retina. This machine scans the retina and provides the doctor with detailed images of the macular and the retina. The doctor may use special drops to dilate your eyes before this test is conducted, because it makes it easier to examine the retina.
You will be asked to sit in front of the OCT machine so that that the scan of your eyes can be completed. Nothing touches your eye, and the test is painless. The test takes about 5 – 10 minutes to complete.
Treatment for Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Treatment for AMD depends on the type and stage of the disease.
There is no treatment for early AMD, but by catching it early through a comprehensive eye exam and making changes in lifestyle by eating healthy, exercise, and quitting smoking can help. There are some things which can be done for dry AMD in the intermediate stage, such as supplements, which may slow down the progression of the disease. There is no treatment for late-stage dry AMD at this point, so people who are diagnosed with late-stage dry AMD must live with some amount of vision loss.
Remember, in the early stages of the most common form of AMD, there is usually no obvious symptoms, and the best way to catch it early is to come in for regular comprehensive eye exams.
Contact us at Decatur Family Eye Care to schedule an appointment for a comprehensive eye exam today.