What is Macular Degeneration?
Learn all you need to know about age-related macular degeneration-from wet vs. Dry to causes and treatments.Click here to learn more
What to expect with Macular Degeneration.
Understand how your AMD might progress so you can be prepared while you work to limit vision loss.Click here to learn more
What is Macular Degeneration?
AMD stands for Age-related Macular Degeneration. Sometimes people simply call it macular degeneration. It’s named after the macula, the small area in the back of your eye that’s responsible for central vision—what you see directly in front of you.
What You Need to Know About Macular Degeneration
To understand AMD, you must first understand the anatomy of your eyes. Your eye has a lens near the front that focuses light. When that light passes through the lens it lands at the back of your eye, the retina. The retina captures the shapes and colours of the light, to make an image for you to see.
The macula is the centre of the retina and it’s responsible for the clarity of the images you see and the vibrancy of their colours.
Having macular degeneration is like using a camera with film that’s partly damaged in the middle. AMD’s effect on your vision depends on the amount and type of damage, wet AMD or dry AMD, in your macula. No matter how advanced your macular degeneration is it mainly affects your central vision. AMD is unlikely to affect your peripheral or side vision.
Wet vs. Dry Macular Degeneration
Most people with macular degeneration have the more common form, dry AMD, in 1 or both eyes. In 1 out of 10 people, dry AMD progresses to wet AMD.
The Stages of Macular Degeneration
While there’s no way to cure macular degeneration, in some people it worsens slowly or stays the same for years. Macular degeneration can be divided into three major stages.
Early AMDThere is typically no change in vision but a doctor can see medium-sized drusen deposits during an eye exam.
Intermediate AMDAn eye exam will show larger drusen deposits or changes in the color of the retina. There may be no symptoms yet or some minor symptoms.
Advanced AMDThere are symptoms such as wavy or blurred vision, blind spots, and trouble seeing in low light situations. Advanced macular degeneration can be dry AMD or wet AMD.
Managing Macular Degeneration
There’s no known way to repair the macula and reverse age-related macular degeneration, so managing AMD is geared toward stopping your condition from getting worse—or at least slowing its progression.
Quitting smoking, eating a diet geared toward macular health, and exercising are just 3 examples of what you can do to help protect your vision if you have dry AMD. You may also want to consider taking an AREDS2 formula vitamin that has been scientifically proven to reduce the risk of progression of the condition.
Wet AMD is typically treated with periodic injections into the eye, but doctors sometimes prescribe laser treatments or laser surgery.
What Causes Macular Degeneration?
You may be wondering why you developed AMD. So many factors can contribute to the condition that it’s impossible to say exactly which have played a role in yours. We do know that some risk factors are beyond our control.
AgeIn Canada, AMD is the leading cause of vision loss in people over the age of 50, affecting approximately 1.4 million Canadians.
Family historyThanks to genetics, close relatives are 3 times more likely to develop macular degeneration.
GenderWomen get AMD more often than men, but this difference may simply be because women tend to live longer than men.
Skin ColorPeople with light skin are more likely to develop AMD than people with darker skin.
Sun ExposureUV rays from the sun may increase the risk of AMD; wearing sunglasses can protect your eyes.
SmokingPeople who smoke or live with smokers are considerably more likely to develop AMD.
ObesityBeing obese is linked to a significant increase in the risk of AMD.
MedicationsSome antipsychotics and malaria treatments may increase the risk of AMD.
DietA high-fat diet is linked to increased risk; some foods such as dark leafy greens, along with eyesight specific vitamins, may help protect your vision.
InactivityLack of aerobic exercise may be linked to macular degeneration; being active may slow its progression.
EyesPeople with lighter-colored eyes may be at higher risk. Research shows that other risk factors for AMD and its progression may be within our control. You and your close family members can try to reduce these by making changes in your lives.
High blood pressure and cholesterol levelsUnmanaged, these conditions can increase the risk of macular degeneration and its progression.
What to expect with Macular Degeneration
Millions of people who are living with Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) were once asking this same question: What will my future look like? The answer unfortunately is, it’s hard to know. Most people over the age of 50 have some amount of drusen—the yellow-colored deposits that gather near the macula. In some people, the condition progresses very slowly and leads to little change in their vision. In others, AMD advances faster and may lead to some loss of vision in one or both eyes.
No one can predict your future with AMD, but it’s worth knowing everything you can about what may happennso that you can prepare yourself and your family —while also doing everything you can to try and limit your vision loss.