Macular degeneration (AMD) is an age-related, progressive disease of a critical central area of the retina called the macula. It causes painless, permanent loss and distortion of central vision. In advanced cases it can affect a person's ability to drive, read, see fine detail and recognise faces.
There are two main types of macular degeneration: dry AMD and wet AMD.
The dry type accounts for most cases of AMD. It is characterised by an accumulation of small yellow deposits under the retina that we call 'drusen'. Changes are usually slow, over many years, and the yellow spots can sometimes progress into larger ones and cause vision loss. Dry AMD can also progress to wet AMD.
Wet AMD is the more severe type of macular degeneration that can result in rapid vision loss and distortion. It is caused by growth of abnormal new blood vessels under the retina and leakage of fluid from these vessels damage the macula and surrounding tissues. Nowadays treatments are available for wet AMD in the form of regular anti-VEGF injections into the eye that can be quite successful in stabilising the disease.
Macular degeneration has a genetic component and is also associated with age, smoking, obesity and cardiovascular disease. Our optometrist will check for macular degeneration during your comprehensive eye examination. We can detect early signs of AMD with our high-definition retinal imaging system, and we use these images for comparison over time and look for change. At Eyecare Concepts, HD digital retinal imaging is included as a standard part of your eye test with no extra cost.
Individuals identified at risk of developing AMD are given a printed grid on a card called an Amsler test (image below, centre) to regularly self-monitor their central vision at home. This test should be done once a month, covering each eye separately while wearing the appropriate reading glasses. If any distortion, spots or changes in the grid are noticed, immediate eye care attention is needed.