What is Age Related Macular Degeneration?
AMD is a degenerative condition of the macula that occurs more frequently with age. Other important risk factors include smoking and family history of AMD. The macula is the centre of the retina and is important for crisp, central vision and visual tasks such as reading, watching TV and recognizing faces. Everyone with AMD have "dry" AMD whereby the macula gets slowly worn out over many decades. About 20% of these people will develop "wet" AMD which is the growth of an abnormal blood vessel under the macula which leaks fluid or blood (hence the term "wet") and eventually results in a large scar beneath the macula.
Causes and Symptoms:
Many people have AMD and never suffer any obvious symptoms. Dry AMD can cause a very gradual decline in central vision over many years resulting in difficulty reading, seeing street signs whilst driving and watching TV. Wet AMD progresses more quickly over days or weeks and often results in distortion or grey spots in the centre of onesone's vision.
It's very important that people with AMD don't smoke and monitor their vision in each eye separately (ie one eye at a time) with an Amsler grid. Any sudden change in vision could signify the development of wet AMD, which needs to be treated urgently (ie within a week). People with moderate or severe dry AMD may benefit from vitamin and anti-oxidant supplements.
Wet AMD can be treated if picked up early with medications such as Avastin, Lucentis and Eylea which are injected into the eye. The treatment is not a cure but often needs to be administered every 1-3 months, sometimes for several years. The eye can be anaesthetised easily and usually the intraocular injections are painless. However, the eye often feels quite irritated, waters and can be sore for 12-24 hours after.