Understanding Macular Degeneration: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

April 20th, 2018
senior man rubbing eyes

Find out if you are at risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, and learn about the latest treatment options.

Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is a common eye condition among individuals over the age of 50. In fact, it’s the leading cause of vision loss in those over the age of 55. While AMD alone typically doesn’t lead to total blindness, it often leads to “blind spots” or blurred areas in the center of the field of vision. This negatively affects your ability to see clearly, potentially making it difficult to execute normal, day-to-day activities like reading, driving, cooking, and more.

This guide will help you recognize the symptoms of AMD early on, enabling you to take proactive measures and seek medical treatment quickly, effectively mitigating the condition’s impact and ensuring your vision remains clear as you get older.

Who is at Risk?

While anyone over the age of 50 is at risk of developing AMD, research suggests that there are several other factors may heighten that level of risk:

  • Ethnicity: The condition is more common in Caucasian populations than in Latino populations or the African diaspora.
  • Smoking: Smokers and ex-smokers may be twice as likely to develop AMD.
  • Genetics: A family history of AMD predisposes a higher risk for AMD.
  • Sun Exposure: Prolonged sun exposure may heighten the risk of developing AMD.
  • Pre-existing Conditions: Risk may increase due to existing conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, nutritional deficiencies, and more.

Recognizing the Symptoms of AMD

Generally speaking, AMD is the gradual breakdown of the macula, which is the area in the retina responsible for both our ability to perceive brightness and focus directly on an object. AMD tends to manifest quite differently from patient to patient.

For some, the condition will advance slowly, resulting in steady but subtle vision loss over a long period of time. For others, it may progress quite rapidly, leading to significant vision loss in one or both eyes.

That said, a common symptom for most patients is a blurred area in or around the center of the field of vision, which tends to expand as the condition progresses. In time, these blurred areas may intensify and become blind spots in your central vision. Objects may also become increasingly dull and/or blurry over time. In more severe cases, some patients suffering from AMD may experience visual hallucinations — a condition also known as Charles Bonnet Syndrome.

Diagnosis and Treatment

If you believe you may be experiencing any of these symptoms, you should seek medical treatment immediately. As with most eye conditions, obtaining an early diagnosis and taking proactive action is the key to minimizing AMD’s long-term impact.

Today, cutting-edge diagnostic techniques like angiography are helping eye specialists recognize AMD earlier than ever before, which in turn has significantly improved treatment outcomes for patients.

Early-stage AMD is typically treated conservatively, with measures such as dietary or lifestyle changes as well as corrective glasses. As the condition advances, however, minimally invasive medical intervention may be required. Depending on the specific case, that could mean anything from the injection of anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) or photodynamic therapy, which involves using a laser to destroy macula-damaging leaking blood vessels in the retina.

Of course, determining the optimal course of treatment for your condition will require a thorough examination from a qualified eye specialist. Don’t let AMD sneak up on you — schedule your free consultation with one of the experts at Kleiman Evangelista Eye Centers today!

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