A Clear View: All About Age-Related Macular Degeneration
While there's a general understanding that vision gets worse over the years, many people don't know exactly what causes this to happen. Of course, there are a number of factors, and every case will be different — but one common condition that affects a patient's vision as they get older is age-related macular degeneration. The name may be off-putting, but it's actually very normal for patients to start being affected by this in their 50s and 60s, and it's really nothing to worry about.
Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD for short, affects the centre of your vision. It makes whatever you're looking at a little blurred and distorted, and may eventually develop into a small 'hole' in your vision if left untended. However mild or strong the effect is, you may find new difficulties doing everyday things such as reading and watching TV, and it may not be safe to drive. However, it doesn't cause full blindness, and may not necessarily affect both of your eyes. The edges of your vision will be left unaffected. It is also completely painless.
On the Outside
An optometrist will be able to diagnose you with AMD very easily. This will involve looking at the back of your eyes with light and specialist equipment. This process is painless and non-invasive; they won't even need to touch your eyes. The look of your eyes will not change, so nobody looking at you in everyday life would be able to tell that your vision is affected.
Dry vs. Wet
There are actually two types of AMD - 'dry' and 'wet'.
Most cases are categorised as 'dry'. These cases cannot be treated, but glasses or contact lenses will help. The effect will develop over several years at a slow pace, and can easily be monitored by your optometrist. Dry AMD is caused by a build-up of drusen at the back of your eyes; this is a fat that occurs naturally in your body.
'Wet' cases develop much, much faster, usually over a couple of weeks. However, it has been known to progress within days. It is caused by blood vessels on the back of your eyes. Unlike dry AMD, there are treatments available to slow or halt its progress. Wet AMD is also much rarer.
Although it's much likelier for a patient to develop dry AMD, the speed at which wet AMD progresses means that you should contact an optometrist for an appointment as soon as you think you may have spotted a problem with your vision. The earlier it's caught, the better — and even if there's no problem, having a checkup certainly won't hurt.