Detecting and Managing Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Macular Degeneration affects the eye’s macula, which is a small area in the light-sensitive retina, in the back of your eye, which is responsible for your good central vision. There are different kinds of macular problems, but the most common is age-related macular-degeneration (AMD).
The macula makes up only a small part of the retina, yet it is much more sensitive to detail than the rest of the retina (called the peripheral retina). The macula is what allows you to thread a needle, read small print, and read street signs. The peripheral retina gives you side (or peripheral) vision.
AMD symptoms include blurriness, dark areas or distortion in your central vision. It usually does not affect your peripheral vision. For example, with advanced AMD, you could see the outline of a clock, yet may not be able to read the hands of the clock to tell what time it is.
While it is a serious eye condition, AMD almost ever causes total blindness. Even people with advanced cases retain useful peripheral vision. In many cases, macular degeneration’s impact on your vision can be minimal.
Early detection of AMD is helpful. Many people are not aware that they have AMD until it is detected during an eye examination – this is one important reason for older people to have regular comprehensive eye exams at Chang Eye Group.
Types of AMD
There are two types of macular degeneration:
- Dry, or Atrophic, Macular Degeneration with drusen –
Most people who have AMD have the dry form. This condition is caused by aging and thinning of tissues of the macula. AMD usually begins when tiny yellow or white pieces of fatty protein called drusen form under the retina.
With dry AMD, vision loss is usually gradual; you should carefully and constantly monitor your central vision. Report any changes in your vision to your eye doctor, as the dry form can change into the more damaging form of macular degeneration called wet (exudative) macular degeneration. While there is no medication to prevent dry macular degeneration, some people may benefit from taking a supplement specifically formulated for AMD patients. This is AREDS II formulation.
- Wet, or exudative, macular degeneration –
About 10 percent of people who have AMD have the more damaging wet form. Wet macular degeneration occurs when abnormal blood vessels begin to grow underneath the retina. This blood vessel growth is called choroidal neovascularization (CNV). These new blood vessels may leak fluid or blood, blurring or distorting central vision.
The longer these abnormal vessels leak or grow, the more risk you have of losing vision. Also, if abnormal blood vessel growth happens in one eye, there is a risk that it will occur in the other eye. The earlier that wet macular degeneration is diagnosed and treated, the better chance you have of preserving some or much of your central vision. That’s why it is so important that your Change Eye Group doctor monitor your vision in each eye carefully.
Treating the wet form of macular degeneration may involve the use of anti-VEGF injections. Treatment of wet macular degeneration often reduces the risk of severe vision loss.
Using An Amsler Grid To Test Your Vision
If you have been diagnosed with dry macular degeneration, you should use a chart called an Amsler grid every day to monitor your vision, as dry macular degeneration can change into the more damaging wet form.
- To use the Amsler grid, wear your reading glasses and hold the grid 12 to 15 inches away from your face in good light.
- Cover one eye.
- Look directly at the center dot with the uncovered eye and keep your eye focused on it.
- While looking directly at the center dot, note whether all lines of the grid are straight, or if any areas are distorted, blurry, or dark.
- Repeat this procedure with the other eye.
- If any area of the grid looks wavy, blurred, or dark, contact your ophthalmologist.
- If you detect any changes when looking at the grid, you should notify Chang Eye Group immediately.