What is age-related macular degeneration (AMD)?
Macular degeneration is a disease affecting the macula, a small central region of the retina responsible for central vision. Peripheral vision is spared. Reading becomes more difficult: some words can be masked or distorted. Watching television, driving, as well as all tasks that require accurate vision become more difficult. In developed countries, AMD is the leading cause of severe vision loss in people over the age of 60.
Which populations are at risk?
Several risk factors are associated with AMD:
⦁ Advanced age
⦁ Family history of AMD
⦁ Caucasian descent
⦁ Poor nutritional intake
What are the different types of age-related macular degeneration (AMD)?
Dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
The dry form is the most common form of macular degeneration (90% of cases). With this usually slowly progressive form, the macular region appears deteriorated and thinned. Sometimes this dry form of macular degeneration can transform into an exudative form.
Exudative or wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
This form of macular degeneration is less common than the dry form but is potentially more dangerous. It evolves more rapidly and can result in a greater risk of significant vision loss than dry AMD. It’s caused by the growth of abnormal blood vessels underneath the macula, leading to bleeding and potential scarring that can damage the central vision.
What are the symptoms of age-related macular degeneration (AMD)?
AMD-related symptoms can vary:
⦁ Progressive loss of ability to read or to perform specific tasks
⦁ Distorted vision: objects appear with an abnormal size or shape, straight lines appear twisted
⦁ Appearance of a dark or empty area in the center of vision. People’s faces can be blurred.
⦁ Impaired color vision
How to screen for age-related macular degeneration (AMD)?
Amsler grid test
Each eye is tested separately while the other eye is covered.
Keep your reading glasses. Hold the grid at a distance of 30-35 cm. Fixate on the point at the center of the grid. If some line(s) appear distorted, a macular problem may be present. This test should be performed at home frequently in all individuals with a family history of macular degeneration but should not be a substitute for an annual eye exam with an eyecare professional.
What are the available treatments?
In the case of dry AMD, there is currently no treatment to regenerate the damaged retina. However, some patients can benefit from vitamin supplements to slow down the disease progression.
For wet AMD, treatments aim to slow or to halt the disease progression. When the disease is diagnosed and treated in a timely fashion, vision loss can be avoided. Some people may even see an improvement in vision. Treatments mainly consist of :
⦁ Injections of «anti-VEGF» molecules into the vitreous of the eye to stop abnormal blood vessels from growing
What are some common tips for patients with AMD?
- Regularly test each eye with the Amsler grid and consult your specialist quickly if you notice a change
- Protect your eyes from sunlight
- Maintain a balanced diet
- Quit smoking
- If your vision is severely impaired, ask your specialist to refer you to the low vision centers (e.g. Institut Nazareth et Louis Braille, Montreal Association for the Blind) for visual aid services.