Age-related macular degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye disease that affects the small central portion of your retina (the macula). AMD can lead to vision loss in the centre of your vision.
Types of age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
There are two types of AMD, i.e. the dry form and the wet age-related macular degeneration:
Dry macular degeneration
People with dry AMD will have small deposits under the retina. The progression of dry AMD is comparably slow, but it may turn into the wet form of AMD and then rapidly lead to a loss of vision. Symptoms typical for dry macular degeneration are increasing problems reading and working as the visual acuity in the centre of the field of vision will slowly diminish.
There is currently no medication to treat the dry form. For this reason, eye specialists recommend a prophylaxis with specific nutrients and vitamins including lutein, zeaxantin, Omega-3 fatty acids, etc.
Wet macular degeneration
In case of wet AMD, pathological blood vessels grow into the retina. The walls of the blood vessels then leak and blood and fluid enter your retina. Early symptoms are difficulties reading. As you will start seeing the letters blurred and your vision is distorted. The most important sign is, however, that straight lines look wavy or are altogether absent. In addition, a blind spot may occur in your central vision while peripheral vision remains intact.
How is AMD diagnosed?
The DIY Amsler grid test:
Apart from expensive and complex devices, there is also a simple tool available for the early detection of AMD – the Amsler grid test. When an AMD patient looks at the Amsel chart, the lines around the block dot in the centre would appear wavy to them and the enter centre area would be blurred or distorted. The test results can be a sign of macular degeneration; however, the test is not a substitute for a medical exam.
Short information on the test:
Test each eye separately; cup your hand over one eye while testing the other one. Hold the Amsler grid approximately 30 to 40 cm from your eyes (normal distance for reading) or keep the same distance from your screen, when doing the test online. Now keep your eye focused on the black dot in the centre. In doing so, note whether all lines near the dot appear straight. If any lines appear distorted, blurred or interrupted or if you see any holes or dark areas, we recommend you see your eye doctor.
Ophthalmoscopy of the fundus (slit lamp):
Already before a person becomes aware of visual defects, it is possible to detect changes to the retina including macula and optic disc via ophthalmoscopy. This examination can be performed under a slit lamp in a so-called indirect ophthalmoscopy (more information on the slit lamp is provided above). Prior to the examination, the pupils are dilated with eye drops.
Optical coherence tomography (OCT):
Retina examination by means of optical coherence tomography (OCT) opens up new opportunities in the areas of early diagnosis, assessment and follow-up checks in this context. OCT is an important diagnostic tool and provides insights which are not possible with other procedures. Even the smallest changes and abnormalities with regard to retinal thickness can be identified with OCT.
Fluorescence angiography (colour imaging):
Fluorescence angiography (colour imaging) is an imaging technique used to examine the vascular system of the fundus by injecting fluorescent dye. This procedure is used to diagnose wet or severely advance AMD.
How is AMD treated?
There are several modern therapeutic drugs available for treating wet AMD such as intravitreal injections, which stop a rapid processing of the disease and in some cases can even result in an improvement of the declining eyesight.
Risk factors for macular degeneration are age, smoking, genetic predisposition, high blood pressure, sunlight, unhealthy diet, etc.