AGE-RELATED MACULAR DEGENERATION
With age comes a lot of changes in the body. The cells and organs in the body are where these changes occur, this in turn affects their function and appearance. In the eyes, there are conditions that come as a result of the normal process of aging and one of them is Age-Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD)
ARMD is a progressive disease that slowly damages the macular (located at the back of the eye and is responsible for clear and fine central vision). This disease is mostly found amongst older people (50yrs and above) and it can lead to loss of central vision and the vision lost cannot be regained.
CAUSES AND RISK FASTORS
ARMD has no known cause but there are several lifestyle and environmental factors that can make one prone to developing it at an older age.
These factors are:
- Family history
- Race – it is most common in Caucasian people.
- High blood pressure
- Over-exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun.
- Diet; eating food containing high level of saturated fat.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
- Distorted vision i.e., straight lines and objects look curvy or bent.
- Fading of colours
- The center of vision looks empty or dark.
- Blurry vision
- Unable to recognize faces.
ARMD comes in two stages or types. We have the Dry ARMD and the Wet ARMD, we will be explaining them concisely.
Most of ARMD cases come in this form, its main feature is the presence of Drusen, these are yellowish deposits made up of lipids and are only during fundoscopy. As Dry ARMD progresses, the appearance of the macular area in the fundus (the back of the eye) changes in colour and more areas in the macular get damaged.
Dry ARMD comes in different stages from Early stage- Intermediate stage- Advanced stage. These stages depend on how wide the drusen spreads. Vision loss is slow in Dry ARMD.
This type is not as common as Dry ARMD, but it is more severe and immediately leads to central vision loss. About 10%-15% of dry ARMD develop into wet ARMD. In Wet ARMD, abnormal blood vessels develop at the back of the retina and these vessels leaks blood into the macula hence the term “wet”. It is the advanced stage of Dry ARMD.
HOW DO I PREVENT ARMD
Early detection is key to preventing any further damage by age-related macular degeneration as it doesn’t have any known cause. It is also advised to take multivitamins and antioxidants containing lutein and zeaxanthin as they help take care and protect the macula. Yearly eye examination is very necessary especially when there is a family history.
AMSLER GRID TEST.
We are going to a small test here and now, below is a chart with a dot at the centre. Follow these simple steps.
- Wear your reading glasses if you have one.
- Starting with your right eye. Gently shut your left eye.
- Focus on the dot in the middle.
- While maintaining focus on the dot, through your peripheral vision try to notice is the lines are straight or wavy, blank or blurry.
- Repeat same procedure with your left eye.
If you notice that the lines are wavy or distorted, make sure to visit any eye clinic immediately.
Yes, ARMD can cause loss of central vision, but it is not a cause of worry, when detected early it can be managed to prevent progression with the constant use of antioxidants, while anti-VEGF drugs can be used to treat wet ARMD. Make sure to visit or consult your optometrist if you experience the symptoms stated above. Early eye treatment can help preserve the remaining vision you have left as vision lost can’t be regained.