Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is a condition that can affect peoples’ eyes as they get older, and is the biggest casue of sight loss in the over-50s in Ireland today.
Over 60,000 people suffer from AMD, leading to such poor vision that all daily activities are affected. People may not completely lose all of their sight, but their lives are impeded severely.
There are two types of AMD; Wet and Dry.
Dry macular degeneration is a chronic eye disease causing vision loss from the middle of your field of vision, and is marked by the degeneration of the macula in the centre of the retina, the layer of tissue on the back wall of the eye.
Dry macular degeneration is one of two types of age-related macular degeneration. The other type, wet macular degeneration, is characterized by blood vessels that grow under the retina in the back of the eye, leaking blood and fluid.
Dry macular degeneration is much more common and will worsen people’s quality of life, as you need to clear central vision to see detail, and it’s like having a blind spot right in the middle of your eye.
AMD impacts reading, driving and facial recognition. The condition usually starts in one eye and in all probability will affect the other eye at some point.
Although it sometimes occurs in family members, the condition is not believed to be hereditary; although the exact causes of AMD are still unknown.
Studies have shown a definite link between smoking and AMD, as well as other factors like high blood pressure, diabetes and poor diet. Vitamins (C & E), beta-carotene, and copper and zinc supplements in your diet can help reduce the risk of developing AMD.
In Ireland today there are thousands of people with AMD, and the chances of developing it increase with age. Dry AMD is essentially untreatable; wet AMD causes more rapid sight loss but can be treated is diagnosed early.
For both wet and dry AMD, help and support is available from low vision services.
There is a simple test for the early symptoms of AMD and an optometrist can detect it; distortion and blurring in the centre of vision are the most obvious signs of onset.
Significant loss of vision can occur within 3-6 months. Early action is necessary to minimise the damage to your eyesight and to help you adjust to sight loss.
There are a number of proven treatments for people who have the most severe type of AMD (wet AMD).
1. Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)
2. Laser Photocoagulation (LPC)
3. Intravitreal Injection
If you are interested in these, ask your doctor, optician or ophthalmologist; they should be able to give you more information and advice. Unfortunately, there are no proven treatments for dry AMD but ongoing research is seeking to provide suitable new therapies.
You can help prevent the development of AMD by sticking to a very healthy diet; rich in vitamins A, C and E and the minerals zinc and copper, which may help to slow the progression of dry AMD in people who already have the condition.
A balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables may help your eye health. There are a number of vitamin products available which have been designed for people with AMD and you can buy these over the counter from your pharmacist.
For a free consultation with an Optometrist to discover if you may be a candidate for corrective laser eye surgery call Optilase on 1 890 301 302 or see www.optilase.com