What is age-related macular degeneration (AMD)?

‘AMD’ stands for age-related macular degeneration. In simple terms, it’s what happens when the macula becomes damaged over time. AMD mainly affects people over the age of 50 and is in fact, one of the most common causes of vision loss in this age group.

However, it is important to note that this information does not replace the individualised information that would be provided by a specialist Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon.

What is the macula?

The macula is a small yet important area of the eye. It is found at the centre of the retina, which is the light-sensing tissue responsible for seeing fine details and the central vision.

How AMD affects vision?

The onset of AMD leads to a gradual loss or blurring of central vision. Individuals affected by this medical condition do not go completely blind; however, their ability to see objects clearly – both close-up and at a distance – is significantly reduced. Even though side and peripheral vision usually remain unaffected, patients may find they are unable to drive, read, use a computer or recognise faces.

Types of AMD

There are two types of AMD – ‘dry’ AMD which is the most common form (80%) and the less common ‘wet’ AMD (20%). In dry AMD there is slow build-up of waste material which leads to the thinning of the retina at the macula. This in early stages may not affect the vision but can slowly progress over the years to advanced form called geographic atrophy and impair the central vision. In the wet AMD, abnormal blood vessels grow and leak blood and fluid beneath the macula, which will stop it from working correctly. If not treated urgently, this results in scarring and irreversible loss of central vision.

How is AMD diagnosed and treated?

Both dry and wet AMD are diagnosed by detailed OCT scans of the retina in majority of cases. We have the latest technology OCT Angio which can be used instead of dye test (fluorescein angiogram).

Some forms of Dry AMD are helped by specific vitamin supplements, which slow the progression to advanced macular degeneration. Also, 15-20% of dry AMD can progress to wet AMD. There are newer treatments on the horizon for dry AMD.

For wet AMD, if diagnosed early and treated promptly, it can stabilise or improve vision in 95% cases. The treatment usually involves regular intravitreal injections – injections into the eye. At Moorfields Private Eye Hospital, we have access to latest anti-VEGF injections (Eylea, Lucentis, Beovue, Avastin) and lasers (PDT). This can stop abnormal blood vessels growing, bleeding and leaking beneath the retina.

Pal, Bishwanath

Written in association with

Mr Bish Pal

Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon

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