Being lucky enough to not have any problems with your vision is an amazing accomplishment, but it may also make it easier to take your eyesight for granted. As you age, your vision will start to change; this could be something as minor as the need for reading glasses or your eyes may become slightly more sensitive to light. The older you get, the more susceptible your eyes become to more serious eye conditions, such as glaucoma, cataracts or diabetic eye disease. One of the most common age-related eye conditions is macular degeneration (AMD)-it is also the leading cause of vision loss in people who are over the age of 50. For this reason, it is essential that you visit your optometrist in Mooresville for routine examinations, especially if you are over the age of 50.

What is Macular Degeneration?

Macular degeneration (AMD) is a painless eye condition in which the central portion of your retina (the macula) deteriorates, resulting in it not functioning properly.  The retina, which is responsible for recording and transmitting the visions you see, is light sensitive tissue located at the back of your eye. The retina essentially converts light images into electrical impulses, which are then sent via your optic nerve to your brain, where the information is interpreted into the visions you are seeing. The central portion of the retina, known as the macula, is responsible for focusing your central vision, which gives you the ability to recognize colors or faces, read, drive a car and etc. AMD (age-related macular degeneration) is referring to the breakdown of this central part of your retina.

Two Types of Macular Degeneration

There are two types of age-related macular degeneration; dry and wet.

Dry AMD-with dry AMD, there is a slow, gradual breakdown of the light-sensitive cells in the macula. The less functioning there is of the macula, the more your central vision diminishes. Dry AMD occurs as a result of clumps of protein and lipid, known as drusen, accumulate under the macula. Over time the buildup of drusen causes the retina to thin or atrophy. Although it is known that there is a relationship between drusen and AMD, the drusen alone typically doesn’t cause vision loss. Drusen is often found in people who are over the age of 60 and your optometrist can detect drusen during a comprehensive optometry appointment. Symptoms of Dry AMD tend to appear gradually and they may vary, but the symptoms may include:

  • Visual distortions
  • Reduced central vision in one or both eyes
  • Needing brighter light when reading
  • Difficulty adapting to low levels of light
  • Blurriness (when reading)
  • Difficulty recognizing faces
  • Decreased night vision

Wet AMD occurs when blood vessels abnormally start to develop under the retina, which may leak fluids, including blood, scar your macula and cause vision loss. The symptoms of wet AMD include all of the symptoms of dry AMD, as well as:

  • Straight lines appearing wavy or crooked which are caused by fluid leaking from the blood vessels that gather under and lifts the macula; ultimately distorting your vision
  • Large areas of black or gray in the central area of your vision may occur
  • Central vision may decrease over a short period of time

Signs of AMD

If you are over the age of 60 and are experiencing changes in your central vision, your optometrist in Mooresville may suspect AMD. To check for signs of AMD, your optometrist will dilate your eyes, which will allow them to have a better view of the back of your eye. Your optometrist will then examine the central portion of the retina to determine if there is a presence of AMD.

Dry AMD cannot be treated; however, the progression may be slowed down with antioxidant vitamins and a healthy lifestyle. Wet AMD may be treated with photodynamic therapy and/or laser surgery; however, it is important to note that none of the treatments are a permanent cure for AMD. Although there is no known cure for AMD, there are a few things you can do to reduce the risk, including avoiding smoking, protecting your eyes from ultraviolet light, eating healthy and getting regular exercise.

Visit Your Local Optometrist If You Are Experiencing Macular Degeneration

If you are age 60 and over, it is essential that you schedule an optometry appointment for an examination to check for AMD. Contact  Eye Care Center Mooresville today to schedule your comprehensive eye exam.