Aged-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the deterioration of the macula, the central portion of your retina that controls visual acuity (your ability to read, recognize faces and colors, drive, watch television, use a computer, and perform any other visual task that requires you to see fine detail).
AMD is the leading cause of vision loss in people age 50 and older. It is an incurable eye disease that gets worse over time:
- Early AMD: at this stage, no vision impairment is experienced however, our optometrist will diagnose the presence of medium-sized drusens (early aging of the macula that manifests itself as yellow deposits under the retina) during your retinal and OCT scans. Regular eye exams become important to monitor the progress of the disease.
- Intermediate AMD: some vision loss will occur but may not be noticeable. Symptoms include: blurry or fuzzy vision, straight lines looking wavy, objects seeming smaller than they actually are, dark/empty/gray areas appearing in your vision. Our eye doctor will look for larger drusens and pigment changes in your retina.
- Late AMD: vision loss is noticeable and permanent
Macular degeneration comes in 2 forms:
- Dry AMD is the more common form of AMD, experienced by 80% of AMD patients. The tissue of the macula gradually becomes thin and eventually stops working properly. You vision starts becoming dim and distorted until you lose central vision over time.
- Wet AMD is the less common but more serious form of AMD. It can progress rapidly. Dry AMD can turn into wet AMD. New, abnormal blood vessels grow under the retina and may leak fluids, therefore damaging light-sensitive retinal cells and scaring your macula. Your vision starts becoming distorted and blurry and as fluids continue to leak, scaring creates blind spots and permanent central vision loss.
Since AMD is an incurable disease, prevention and early detection is key to preserving your vision.
For anyone 50 years of age and older, we recommend optomap® retinal imaging as part of your eye health check-up during your annual eye exam, rather than dilation (unless necessary). Our eye doctor uses optomap® to detect drusens early and quickly assess the general health of your eye.
Based on clinical findings, our optometrist may require an OCT/OCTA scan to further assess the severity and progression of your drusens. Unlike other practices that may only have access to a regular OCT (ultrasound of the eye), our doctors use the latest angiography technology featured in our Optovue AngioVue OCTA® to view the vasculature of your eye without the need for uncomfortable dye injection into the eye, which helps guide best course of treatment for your care. The OCT/OCTA scan will reveal the extent and location of any blood vessel build-up or leakage.
Being wellness and preventive care focused, our eye doctors always prefer early detection over having you suffer partial/full vision loss and go through anti-VEGF eye injections to slow down the symptoms of intermediate or late stage AMD.
To help prevent AMD, here are some good habits you can adopt:
- Eat plenty of dark leafy greens, nuts, fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants and carotenoids (kale, spinach, collard greens, turnip greens, broccoli, brussel sprouts, lettuce, peas, okra, nuts, seeds… etc). Studies have shown that high level of Vitamin A, E, C and carotenoids made of lutein, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin help replenish the pigments in your macula to protect it from deterioration
- Eat more fish or consider Omega-3 supplements
- Exercise regularly: a combination of regular exercise and healthy diet helps control high blood pressure and cholesterol, which both affect blood flow to the eye
- Avoid smoking: smoking speeds deterioration as it reduces number of protective nutrients, and oxygen delivered by the bloodstream to the eye
- Protect your eyes from UV and blue light by wearing sunglasses outdoors. Though UV light has not been confirmed to cause AMD, studies suggest that overexposure to both UV and high energy visible (HEV) “blue” light may accelerate the deterioration of the macula in the eye
- Consider MacuHealth vitamins if you are at risk of AMD: Many eye doctors may suggest AREDS 2 vitamin supplementation. However, our office currently prefers MacuHealth over AREDS 2 as the latest studies show debatable benefit and potential risk of higher Zinc dosage in the current AREDS/AREDS 2 formulation. Speak with our doctor to learn more.
For additional information, please visit one of the following resources and references:
- American Macular Degeneration Foundation, “About Macular Degeneration – Symptoms, Risks, Stargardt, Anatomy“
- American Optometric Association, Macular Degeneration Fact Sheet
- American Academy of Ophthalmology, “Age-Related Macular Degeneration Preferred Practice Pattern 2019“
- National Eye Institute, “At a glance: Aged-Related Macular Degeneration“
- Review of Optometry, Oct 2019, Wellness Essentials for Clinical Practice, see “The Nuts and Bolts of Nutrients” pg 8, “Carotenoids: Front to Back Ocular Protection” pg 21, “Put Wellness on the Menu” pg 34, “Two Big Controversies in Ocular Nutrition” pg 41