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retina macula

What is age related macular degeneration

Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is a condition in which the macula deteriorates due to age. The macula is a small area at the centre of the retina which is responsible for fine and central vision.

What are the types of age related macular degeneration?

There are two types of age related macular degeneration – dry and wet:

Dry age related macular degeneration
This is the most common type that affects the majority of those with age related macular degeneration. With dry AMD, the macula gets thinner over time while small proteins called drusen accumulate under the retina. The deterioration of the macula occurs over several years in the case of dry AMD.

Wet age related macular degeneration
This is a more serious type of AMD that is less common. With wet AMD, abnormal blood vessels from beneath the retina damage the macula by leaking blood and other fluids into the retina. The loss of vision occurs faster than with dry AMD, with sudden distortion of the vision and sudden blurring of the central vision.

What are the causes and risk factors for age related macular degeneration?

Factors that lead to age related macular degeneration include:

  • Age – age is a factor that increases the risk of AMD developing. Those over the age of 60 have a higher risk of developing AMD
  • Family history – there is a higher likelihood of developing AMD if a parent or sibling has it
  • Smoking – inhaling cigarette smoke increases the risk of AMD developing

What are the symptoms of age related macular degeneration?

Age related macular degeneration is progessive, meaning the condition will worsen over time.
Dry AMD symptoms
The following symptoms start to appear as dry AMD progresses:

  • Straight lines appearing crooked
  • Reduced central vision
  • Reduced ability to see in low light

Wet AMD symptoms
With wet AMD, the symptoms are similar to dry AMD although they progress faster. In addition, the following symptoms are seen:

  • A dark spot in the vision from the leaking of blood and other fluid
  • A rapid loss of vision

Treatment options for macular degeneration

Treatment for dry AMD
There is no treatment for dry macular degeneration at the moment, but the progression of the condition can be reduced through diet and not smoking. Working with an eye specialist can help with adapting to the changes in vision that will occur over time.

Treatment for wet AMD

  • Anti-VEGF injections – to treat wet AMD, anti-VEGF injections (Avastin, Lucentis and Eylea) are injected into the eye (intravitreal injections). These injections are performed under local anesthetic, and they serve to stop the abnormal blood vessels from growing and to prevent further damage to the retina. The treatment would need to be repeated – the frequency can vary from every few weeks to every few months depending on the case of wet AMD

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