Our optometrists have extensive experience with this condition. If you live in or near Cape Girardeau, Perryville or Fredericktown, Missouri and suspect your eyesight is affected, make an appoint now to have your eyes examined. Early detection and management are essential to preserve your eyesight.
What is age-related macular degeneration?
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a disease associated with aging that gradually destroys sharp, central vision. Central vision is needed for seeing objects clearly and for common daily tasks such as reading and driving. The disease is most common in people over age 60, which is why it is often called age-related macular degeneration (ARMD, or AMD).
AMD affects the macula, the part of the eye that allows you to see fine detail. AMD causes no pain.
In some cases, AMD advances so slowly that people notice little change in their vision. In others, the disease progresses faster and may lead to a loss of vision in both eyes. AMD is a leading cause of vision loss in Americans 60 years of age and older.
Frequently Asked Questions about AMD/ARMD
Press or click each question to open the explanation
Where is the macula?
The macula is located in the center of the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. The retina instantly converts light and images into electrical impulses. The retina then sends these impulses, or nerve signals, to the brain. Note the macula shown here in the central part of the retina at the very back of the eye. As noted above, the macula is responsible for ensuring we see sharply and clearly.
What is wet AMD?
Wet AMD occurs when abnormal blood vessels behind the retina start to grow under the macula. These new blood vessels tend to be very fragile and often leak blood and fluid. The blood and fluid raise the macula from its normal place at the back of the eye. Damage to the macula occurs rapidly.
With wet AMD, loss of central vision can occur quickly. Wet AMD is also known as advanced AMD. It does not have stages like dry AMD.
An early symptom of wet AMD is that straight lines appear wavy. If you notice this condition or other changes to your vision, contact our offices at once for an appointment. You need a comprehensive dilated eye exam.
What is dry AMD?
Dry AMD occurs when the light-sensitive cells in the macula slowly break down, gradually blurring central vision in the affected eye. As dry AMD gets worse, you may see a blurred spot in the center of your vision. Over time, as less of the macula functions, central vision is gradually lost in the affected eye.
The most common symptom of dry AMD is slightly blurred vision. You may have difficulty recognizing faces. You may need more light for reading and other tasks. Dry AMD generally affects both eyes, but vision can be lost in one eye while the other eye seems unaffected.
One of the most common early signs of dry AMD is drusen. Drusen are yellow deposits under the retina. They often are found in people over age 60. Your eye care professional can detect drusen during a comprehensive dilated eye exam. Drusen are depicted in the right image of this eye diagram:
Stages of Dry AMD
Drusen alone do not usually cause vision loss. In fact, scientists are unclear about the connection between drusen and AMD. They do know that an increase in the size or number of drusen raises a person's risk of developing either advanced dry AMD or wet AMD. These changes can cause serious vision loss.
Dry AMD has three stages, all of which may occur in one or both eyes:
- Early AMD. People with early AMD have either several small drusen or a few medium-sized drusen. At this stage, there are no symptoms and no vision loss.
- Intermediate AMD. People with intermediate AMD have either many medium-sized drusen or one or more large drusen. Some people see a blurred spot in the center of their vision. More light may be needed for reading and other tasks.
- Advanced Dry AMD. In addition to drusen, people with advanced dry AMD have a breakdown of light-sensitive cells and supporting tissue in the central retinal area. This breakdown can cause a blurred spot in the center of your vision. Over time, the blurred spot may get bigger and darker, taking more of your central vision. You may have difficulty reading or recognizing faces until they are very close to you.
|Normal vision and the same scene as viewed by a person with age-related macular degeneration.|
As seen with age-related macular degeneration
Normal vision and the same scene as viewed by a person with age-related macular degeneration.
As seen by a person with age-related macular degeneration
If you have vision loss from dry AMD in one eye only, you may not notice any changes in your overall vision. With the other eye seeing clearly, you still can drive, read, and see fine details. You may notice changes in your vision only if AMD affects both eyes. If blurriness occurs in your vision, contact us for a comprehensive dilated eye exam.
Ninety percent of all people with AMD have this type. Scientists are still not sure what causes dry AMD.
Which is the most common form?
The dry form is much more common. More than 85 percent of all people with intermediate and advanced AMD combined have the dry form.
However, if only advanced AMD is considered, about two-thirds of patients have the wet form. Because almost all vision loss comes from advanced AMD, the wet form leads to significantly more vision loss than the dry form.
Can the dry form turn into the wet form?
Yes. All people who have the wet form had the dry form first.
The dry form can advance and cause vision loss without turning into the wet form. The dry form also can suddenly turn into the wet form, even during early stage AMD. There is no way to tell if or when the dry form will turn into the wet form.
Does the wet form have similar stages as the dry does?
No. The wet form is considered advanced AMD.
Can advanced AMD be either the dry form or the wet form?
Yes. Both the wet form and the advanced dry form are considered advanced AMD. Vision loss occurs with either form. In most cases, only advanced AMD can cause vision loss.
People who have advanced AMD in one eye are at especially high risk of developing advanced AMD in the other eye.
Who is at risk for AMD?
The greatest risk factor is age. Although AMD may occur during middle age, studies show that people over age 60 are clearly at greater risk than other age groups. For instance, a large study found that people in middle-age have about a 2 percent risk of getting AMD, but this risk increased to nearly 30 percent in those over age 75.
Other risk factors include:
- Smoking. Smoking may increase the risk of AMD.
- Obesity. Research studies suggest a link between obesity and the progression of early and intermediate stage AMD to advanced AMD.
- Race. Whites are much more likely to lose vision from AMD than African Americans.
- Family history. Those with immediate family members who have AMD are at a higher risk of developing the disease.
- Gender. Women appear to be at greater risk than men.
Can my lifestyle make a difference?
Your lifestyle can play a role in reducing your risk of developing AMD.
- Eat a healthy diet high in green leafy vegetables and fish.
- Don't smoke.
- Maintain normal blood pressure.
- Watch your weight.
What are the symptoms?
Both dry and wet AMD cause no pain.
For dry AMD: the most common early sign is blurred vision. As fewer cells in the macula are able to function, people will see details less clearly in front of them, such as faces or words in a book. Often this blurred vision will go away in brighter light. If the loss of these light-sensing cells becomes great, people may see a small—but growing—blind spot in the middle of their field of vision.
For wet AMD: the classic early symptom is that straight lines appear crooked. This results when fluid from the leaking blood vessels gathers and lifts the macula, distorting vision. A small blind spot may also appear in wet AMD, resulting in loss of one's central vision.
How is AMD detected?
Your eye care professional may suspect AMD if you are over age 60 and have had recent changes in your central vision. To look for signs of the disease, he or she will use eye drops to dilate, or enlarge, your pupils. Dilating the pupils allows your eye care professional to view the back of the eye better.
AMD is detected during a comprehensive eye exam that includes:
- Visual acuity test. This eye chart test measures how well you see at various distances.
- Dilated eye exam. Drops are placed in your eyes to widen, or dilate, the pupils. Your eye care professional uses a special magnifying lens to examine your retina and optic nerve for signs of AMD and other eye problems. After the exam, your close-up vision may remain blurred for several hours.
- Tonometry. An instrument measures the pressure inside the eye. Numbing drops may be applied to your eye for this test.
Your eye care professional also may do other tests to learn more about the structure and health of your eye.
During an eye exam, you may be asked to look at an Amsler grid. The pattern of the grid resembles a checkerboard. You will cover one eye and stare at a black dot in the center of the grid. While staring at the dot, you may notice that the straight lines in the pattern appear wavy. You may notice that some of the lines are missing. These may be signs of AMD.
Do NOT depend on the grid displayed on our website for any diagnoses! Make an appointment with one of our optometrists to have your eyes examined in detail to determine what is best for your individual situation.
How is wet AMD managed?
Wet AMD can be treated with laser surgery, photodynamic therapy, and injections into the eye. None of these treatments is a cure for wet AMD. The disease and loss of vision may progress despite treatment.
- Laser surgery. This procedure uses a laser to destroy the fragile, leaky blood vessels. A high energy beam of light is aimed directly onto the new blood vessels and destroys them, preventing further loss of vision. However, laser treatment may also destroy some surrounding healthy tissue and some vision. Only a small percentage of people with wet AMD can be treated with laser surgery. Laser surgery is more effective if the leaky blood vessels have developed away from the fovea, the central part of the macula. Laser surgery is performed in a doctor's office or eye clinic. The risk of new blood vessels developing after laser treatment is high. Repeated treatments may be necessary. In some cases, vision loss may progress despite repeated treatments.
- Photodynamic therapy. A drug called verteporfin is injected into the arm. It travels throughout the body, including the new blood vessels in your eye. The drug tends to "stick" to the surface of new blood vessels. Next, a light is shined into your eye for about 90 seconds. The light activates the drug. The activated drug destroys the new blood vessels and leads to a slower rate of vision decline. Unlike laser surgery, this drug does not destroy surrounding healthy tissue. Because the drug is activated by light, you must avoid exposing your skin or eyes to direct sunlight or bright indoor light for five days after treatment. Photodynamic therapy is relatively painless. It takes about 20 minutes and can be performed in a doctor's office. Photodynamic therapy slows the rate of vision loss. It does not stop vision loss or restore vision in eyes already damaged by advanced AMD. Treatment results often are temporary. Patients experiencing this condition may need to be treated again.
- Injections. Wet AMD can now be treated with new drugs that are injected into the eye (anti-VEGF therapy). Abnormally high levels of a specific growth factor occur in eyes with wet AMD and promote the growth of abnormal new blood vessels. This drug treatment blocks the effects of the growth factor. Patients will need multiple injections that may be given as often as monthly. The eye is numbed before each injection. After the injection, it's necessary to remain in the doctor's office for a while and the eye will be monitored. This drug treatment can help slow down vision loss from AMD and in some cases can improve sight.
How is dry AMD treated?
Once dry AMD reaches the advanced stage, no form of treatment can prevent vision loss. However, treatment can delay and possibly prevent intermediate AMD from progressing to the advanced stage, in which vision loss occurs.
Our doctors will be able to make that determination and what treatment options work best for each individual. Treatment options for slowing the progression from the intermediate to the advanced stage can save the vision of many people according to research done by the National Eye Institute.
Your eye care professional, Doctor Brost or another of our optometrists can tell you if you have AMD, its stage, and your risk for developing the advanced form.
How can I take care of my vision now that I have AMD?
Dry AMD. If you have dry AMD, you should have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year. Our doctors can monitor your condition and check for other eye diseases.
Because dry AMD can turn into wet AMD at any time, you should get an Amsler grid from one of our doctors. Use the grid daily to evaluate your vision for signs of wet AMD. This quick test works best for people who still have good central vision. Check each eye separately. Cover one eye and look at the grid. Then cover your other eye and look at the grid. If you detect any changes in the appearance of this grid or in your everyday vision while reading the newspaper or watching television, get a comprehensive dilated eye exam. Do not put it off, call our offices today.
What can be done if some vision has been lost from AMD?
Don't be afraid to use your eyes for reading, watching TV, and other routine activities. Normal use of your eyes will not cause further damage to your vision.
If you have lost some sight from AMD, ask one of our doctors about low vision services and devices that may help you make the most of your remaining vision.