06The possible symptoms of macular degeneration generally depend on its stage. They can range from having no symptoms to blurring and the illusion that straight lines look wavy.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a progressive eye condition that damages the macula of the eye. The retina is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. It converts light into electrical signals sent to the brain. At its center is the macula, the critical region of the retina, which processes sharp, detailed central vision and color perception. There are two types of AMD: dry AMD and wet AMD. Dry AMD is the most common and least serious form. Wet AMD involves atypical blood vessels that can lead to considerable and permanent vision loss.
AMD is one of the leading causes of permanent vision loss in older people, especially those over the age of 60. Loss of central vision causes difficulty in reading, driving and recognizing faces. This article outlines the potential signs and symptoms of AMD.
Signs and Symptoms of Macular Degeneration
The symptoms of AMD depend on the type of AMD. Dry AMD, which represents 85 to 90% of AMD cases, appears gradually. Wet AMD, which accounts for about 10-15% of all AMD cases, tends to be more serious and can develop very suddenly. Symptoms also depend on the stage of AMD. There are three stages: early, intermediate and late. Dry AMD progresses slowly and has all three stages. Wet AMD is always in the late stage. Early-stage dry AMD usually causes no symptoms. During a routine eye examination, the ophthalmologist may notice subretinal deposits of fats, proteins, and cellular waste products called drusen. In some cases, the macula may also show a color change.
Other possible early manifestations of AMD are:
difficulty adapting to dark and light
need bright light or magnifying glass to read
A straight line that looks crooked or wavy, called metamorphopsia, is a warning sign of late AMD. A person with late AMD may also experience the following symptoms, whether it is dry or wet AMD:
blurry or cloudy vision
some objects appear smaller than they are
appearance of gray, dark, or empty areas in the center of the visual field
color vision becomes paler.
AMD can occur in both eyes, but it is also possible for it to affect only one eye.
An eye doctor can perform an exam to look inside the eye and examine the retina to document the presence of these AMD abnormalities:
alterations of the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE)
AMD usually occurs as a result of damage to the macula due to aging. The factors that can influence its development are:
age 50 and over
high blood pressure
a diet high in saturated fat
family history of AMD
There is currently no cure for AMD, but effective injectable medications and laser treatments can preserve useful vision. Also, changes in lifestyle and diet can help slow vision loss and prevent AMD:
do not smoke or quit smoking
maintain healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels
adopt a healthy diet
Research also suggests that a specific combination of nutrients may help reduce the risk of AMD in people with intermediate or late AMD. Notably:
Copper as cupric oxide
In addition, people at risk of AMD are advised to have regular eye exams. Early detection can help delay vision loss and symptom progression.
When to contact a doctor
Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent vision loss. A person who notices sudden changes in their vision should contact their eye doctor immediately.
Symptoms that warrant an urgent visit to the doctor are:
sudden deterioration of vision
red and painful eye
presence of a dark shadow or “curtain” over vision.
A doctor may offer various tests to help diagnose macular degeneration. It may be the Amsler grid. This test describes a square grid of horizontal and vertical lines. The doctor tests the eyes separately. If the lines begin to appear wavy, crooked, or absent, this may indicate early signs of macular degeneration.
AMD is an eye disease that causes macular damage and loss of central vision. This can result in difficulty reading, seeing fine detail, driving, and performing other activities that require sharp vision. Symptoms may include blurred or distorted vision, difficulty seeing in dim light, and loss of color brightness. AMD is usually secondary to aging, but many other factors beyond age can increase the risk. There is currently no cure, but effective injectable medications and laser treatments can preserve useful vision. Also, lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, wearing sunglasses, and eating a healthy diet can slow the progression of the disease.