Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a common eye disease that blurs central vision, which you use to read, drive, and see pictures or faces. Your central vision allows you to see shapes, colors, and details. While AMD does not cause total blindness, it is a leading cause of vision loss in older adults. Many people ignore the signs of AMD until they start experiencing vision loss.
AMD affects the retina, which is the light-sensitive tissue that covers the back of your eye. Carrying visual information about the outside world, light enters your eye through the pupil. This light then strikes the retina at the back of your eye. The retina absorbs the light and the information it carries. Special cells in the retina convert the light and information into pulses that travel through the optic nerve to your brain, which converts the information into the visual images you perceive.
More specifically, AMD affects the macula, which is located in the center of the retina. The macula has a high concentration of photoreceptor cells that detect light. This small spot on the retina is responsible for the sharp, central vision for reading, driving and seeing fine detail.
AMD is a progressive condition, which means it gets worse over time. Age-related macular degeneration is common, affecting about 2.5 million people in Canada. Most have early-stage AMD, but nearly 180,000 are experiencing vision loss.
What is Dry AMD?
There are two forms of AMD: wet and dry. Wet AMD is less common, but it causes faster vision loss. Wet AMD develops when abnormal blood vessels grow in the wrong place beneath the retina. These blood vessels bleed and leak fluids into the macula.
Dry AMD accounts for about 90 percent of diagnosed cases. It develops when waste material from metabolism, known as drusen, collect in the macula. The drusen slowly break down the light-sensitive cells in the macula to cause signs and symptoms of dry AMD.
Early Signs of AMD
Dry AMD typically progresses in three stages: early, intermediate, and late. It usually gets worse over the course of several years.
During early dry AMD, drusen begins to build up under the retina. There is usually no affect on vision during the early stages of dry AMD. Intermediate dry AMD is characterized by larger drusen, which may cause some changes to your vision. The condition may or may not progress to late-stage AMD.
The earliest signs of dry AMD may not appear until the disease has reached intermediate or late stages. Some people may notice mild symptoms, such as trouble seeing in low lighting and mild blurriness in their central vision.
Late-stage dry AMD can cause specific signs – whatever you do, do not ignore these five signs:
- Straight lines look wavy or crooked
- The presence of a blurry area near the center of your vision, which may get bigger
- Blank spots near the center of your vision
- Colors that seem less bright than before
- Increasing trouble seeing in low lighting
If you experience any of these five early signs of dry AMD, make an appointment with your optometrist right away.
Importance of early detection and treatment
Early detection can lead to treatment at the appropriate time. There is currently no treatment for early stage AMD. Your eye doctor may recommend frequent visits so that they can keep an eye on how the condition is progressing.
Treatment during intermediate-stage dry AMD is important, as taking certain dietary supplements may slow its progression to late-stage AMD. If you have intermediate-stage dry AMD in just one eye, treatment may slow down AMD in your other eye.
If you are experiencing signs and symptoms of dry AMD, make an appointment with Garibaldi Eye Care. Located in Squamish, our optometrists at Garibaldi Eye Care provide diagnosis and treatment for dry AMD for the Sea to Sky Corridor community.