Macular Degeneration

Macular Degeneration (AMD) is an age-related macular degeneration (also called ARMD), is a medical condition which can result in blurred or loss of vision in the very centre of a patient's visual field. This eye disease normally occurs in older people, but has been noted in a limited number of younger patients, and is caused by damage to the macula of the retina. The only way to diagnose this condition properly is through a complete eye exam. The severity of AMD/ARMD is diagnosed by the following types:

 

  1. Early Type Macular Degeneration

  2. Intermediate Type Macular Degeneration

  3. Late Type Macular Degeneration

 

Late Type Macular Degeneration is additionally divided into "dry" and "wet" forms. Dry form AMD makes up the majority of all diagnosed cases of AMD across the globe.

Symptoms of Macular Degeneration

The following are the visual symptoms associated with Macular Degeneration. Please note however that self-diagnosis is NOT possible and a trained Ophthalmologist needs to do a full eye examination to obtain a full diagnosis as well as the level of Macular Degeneration which has occurred.

 

Distorted Vision

This occurs in the form of metamorphopsia, visually a grid of straight lines appears wavy and may in part appear blank.

 

Photosensitivity

When exposed to bright light the patient is slow to recover visual function.

 

Visual Acuity

There is a decrease in visual acuity of more than two levels.

 

Blurred Vision 

Nonexudative macular degeneration patients may be asymptomatic or only experience a gradual loss of central vision. Those with exudative macular degeneration, however, will often experience a rapid onset of blurred vision. In most cases, this rapid blurring of vision is caused by the bleeding of abnormal blood vessels.

 

Colour Differentiation

Macular Degeneration can lead to trouble with discerning specific colours and a loss in contrast sensitivity.

 

Visual Hallucinations

Both visual hallucinations and flashing lights are associated with severe visual loss in patients suffering from wet AMD.

 

A Medical Note! Macular degeneration by itself will not lead to total blindness. In most (but not all) cases, some vision remains, mainly peripheral.

What Causes Macular Degeneration?

Although advanced age is without a doubt the main predictor of AMD in people over the age of 50, there are also a number of Environment and Lifestyle Factors which can contribute to the onset of Macular Degeneration. These are:

 

Smoking

The smoking of tobacco products increases the risk of AMD by up to three times that of non-smokers.

 

Hypertension

Diastolic blood pressure (BP) does not significantly affect the occurrence of AMD, but elevated pulse pressure (PP), which is systolic BP minus diastolic BP, significantly increased the risk of late AMD.

 

High Cholesterol

Elevated cholesterol is currently believed to increase the risk of suffering from AMD.

 

Obesity

Abdominal obesity has been identified as a risk factor in AMD sufferers. This is especially true among male patients.

 

Fat Intake

The consumption of high amounts of saturated fats, trans fats, and omega-6 fatty acids is likely to contribute to AMD. However monounsaturated fats such as omega-3 fatty acids are believed to decrease the risk of AMD.

Can Genetics Contribute to AMD?

Yes, it can! The AMD recurrence ratios for the siblings of an affected individual are between three and sixfold higher than those found in the general population. Currently, 5 sets of gene variants have been identified at three locations on chromosomes which can contribute to the onset of Macular Degeneration. Genetic tests are available for some of these gene variations. 

Please contact your local Ophthalmologist to find out more about Macular Degeneration.

The Treatment and Management of AMD


The Treatment of AMD will always vary depending on the category of the disease at the time of diagnosis. Unfortunately, however, there are currently no treatments which can reverse the damage done by AMD, so current treatment methodologies are aimed at slowing the progression of Macular Degeneration down. Modifying factors can be managed, however, and this included the stopping of smoking, making specific dietary changes and including antioxidant and mineral supplementation in a patient’s diet.

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