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Quick Facts

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

By The Manual's Editorial Staff,

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The retina is a layer of cells at the back of your eye that's sensitive to light and sends signals to your brain that allow you to see.

The macula is a small area of the retina that has a high concentration of light-sensitive cells. The macula is important for seeing details when you look right at something. For example, your macula helps you read or drive.

What is age-related macular degeneration?

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye disease that causes the macula to lose its normal structure (called degeneration). When the macula doesn't work properly, you lose the center part of your vision. The center vision is where you see fine details.

  • AMD is more common in older people

  • In severe cases, it can lead to blindness

  • Certain vitamins may help slow vision loss from AMD

  • Some people need special treatments to slow down vision loss from AMD

There are two types of AMD. First you get:

  • Dry AMD, in which cells in the macula die slowly and cause a steady loss of vision

After you have had dry AMD for a while, you might get:

  • Wet AMD, in which new abnormal blood vessels grow under the damaged macula and leak blood, causing faster vision loss

Viewing the Retina

What causes AMD?

Doctors don’t know what causes AMD. Certain conditions increase the risk of getting it. Your chances of having AMD are higher if you:

  • Are older

  • Have family members with AMD

  • Smoke cigarettes

  • Have heart disease

  • Have high blood pressure

  • Are overweight

  • Have certain genetic problems

What are the symptoms of AMD?

The symptoms of AMD depend on what kind of AMD you have.

In dry AMD, you:

  • Little by little, see less detail or get blind spots in the center of your vision

  • See straight lines as wavy

  • Have the same symptoms in both eyes

  • Still have enough vision to read and drive

Later, some people with dry AMD may develop wet AMD.

In wet AMD, common symptoms include:

  • Vision loss in one eye that happens quickly, usually over days or weeks

  • A blurry or wavy area in the center part of your vision

  • Symptoms in just one eye at a time

  • Sometimes, blindness in one eye

How can doctors tell if I have AMD?

An eye exam usually tells if you have AMD. Doctors check to see if you have vision loss. They'll ask you to look at a grid to see if the lines appear to be straight or wavy.

Doctors may take special pictures of your retina or do tests to look at inner parts of your eye. They can usually see the damage to your eye even before you have symptoms.

How do doctors treat AMD?

If you have mild AMD, you won't be given treatment. But the doctor may give you the following vitamins to keep AMD from getting worse:

Don't take beta-carotene or vitamin A if you have been a smoker for the past 7 years or more because they can raise your chances of getting lung cancer.

If you have severe vision loss from AMD, your doctor may:

  • Give you shots in the back of your eyes

  • Use a special light or laser to fix the blood vessels in your eye

  • Suggest tools that help you read, such as magnifiers, special reading glasses, and other reading devices

  • Put a mini telescope in your eye, if your vision loss is severe and hasn't improved with other treatments

How can I prevent AMD?

You can help prevent or slow AMD if you:

  • Stop smoking or don’t start smoking

  • Eat more foods that have omega-3 fatty acids, such as certain kinds of fish and dark-green leafy vegetables

  • Take the vitamins used to treat people who already have AMD

  • Control your blood pressure and watch your weight

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