One day, 60-year-old David came into the pharmacy and complained about his worsening vision. He said he had been experiencing visual symptoms such as increased difficulty in adjusting to dim light and recognising faces, as well as blurriness.
The pharmacist referred him to an ophthalmologist, who told him he had macular degeneration.
Also known as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), this is a common eye disorder affecting those 50 and above. Prevalence of this condition increases from 2% among the 40-44 age group to 46.6% in those aged 85 and older.
AMD is caused by degradation of the inner layers of the macula, the round area at the centre of your retina and at the back of your eyeball, which processes what you see directly in front of you.
It results in distorted or diminished central vision; and, over time, the macula’s tissue may deteriorate and lose vision-producing cells.
There are two types of AMD – wet and dry – with the latter being more common. One or both eyes may be affected, though it is possible you won’t notice any significant changes if it only occurs in one eye as the other may make up for the impairment.
Dry AMD progresses over the years and could lead to wet macular degeneration, which occurs when blood vessels under the retina swell and leak fluid. This type of AMD is likely to result in a more severe vision loss.
AMD Symptoms, which typically appear gradually and painlessly, include:
- visual distortions such as the appearance of wavy lines;
- a decrease in the central vision of one or both eyes, which affects close-up work, reading, recognising faces, and driving;
- requiring brighter light when reading or performing close-up work;
- difficulty adjusting to dim-light conditions such as in the cinema;
- difficulty reading printed words due to blurriness;
- a blind spot or dark, empty area, or hazy area in one’s field of view.Why does it happen?
The exact cause of AMD is unknown, but research indicates it could be owing to a mix of environmental factors such as smoking, obesity, and diet, as well as family genes. And while there is no cure, there are treatments that may halt or delay its progression.
The good news is, age-related macular degeneration seldom results in blindness, and one’s peripheral vision is usually not affected.
The following factors may make one more susceptible to macular degeneration:
- your age, i.e. those 50 and above;
- your family history and genetics, as certain genes may be connected to AMD;
- your ethnicity, given that AMD is more prevalent among Caucasians;
- smoking, because macular degeneration is significantly more likely to occur if you partake of cigarettes or are frequently exposed to tobacco smoke;
- your cardiovascular system and blood pressure, with increased risk of AMD if you have heart or blood-vessel issues;
- obesity, which may increase the likelihood that early or intermediate macular degeneration will advance to the more severe stage; and, relatedly,
- a diet high in saturated fats.
You may be able to lower your chance of acquiring the condition if you:
- ensure all your medical conditions are well controlled. If you have high blood pressure or heart disease, adhere to your medications and follow your doctor’s instructions to the letter;
- quit smoking;
- maintain a healthy optimal weight and exercise regularly; and
- observe a balanced diet with fruits and vegetables that contain vitamins and antioxidants. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish and certain nuts, may also help ward off AMD.
Regular eye exams are crucial to detect early signs and symptoms of macular degeneration.
This article was written by DOC2US, a mobile application that allows you to talk to a doctor or any healthcare professionals via text chat at any time and from anywhere.