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Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of severe vision loss in adults over age 50. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 1.8 million people have AMD and another 7.3 million are at substantial risk for vision loss from AMD.
Macular degeneration is a deterioration or breakdown of the macula. The macula is a small area in the back of the eye that allows you to see fine details clearly and perform daily activities. When the macula doesn’t function correctly, your central vision can be affected by blurriness, dark areas or distortion.
Macular degeneration usually occurs in individuals 65 and older as a part of the body’s natural aging process. Exactly how it develops is not known, and no treatment has been uniformly effective. Caucasians are at higher risk for developing AMD than other races. Women also develop AMD at an earlier age than men. Smoking or a history of smoking is believed to increase the risk of developing macular degeneration. Individuals with a family history of AMD are a greater risk for developing condition.
It is difficult for individuals to realize they have a macular problem until blurred or distorted vision becomes obvious. Your optometrist at Looks Eyecare can detect early stages of macular degeneration during a medical eye examination that includes the following:
- a simple test in which you look at a chart that resembles graph paper (amsler grid)
- observing the macula through a dilated health exam
- documenting and comparing macular changes with special photographs of the eye
- Fundus Photography photographs the macula for visual comparison
- Cirrus Optical Coherence Tomography scans the layers of tissue in the macula for changes beneath the surface
- The Diopsys NOVA-ERG vision testing system is an evoked potential test that measures the function of the retina utilizing pattern electroretinography
Macular degeneration can cause different symptoms in different people. The condition may be hardly noticeable in its early stages. Sometimes, only one eye loses vision while the other eye continues to see well for many years. When both eyes are affected, the change in vision may be noticed more quickly. The following are some common symptoms:
- a gradual loss of ability to see objects clearly
- distorted vision, especially noticeable in words on a page as in the diagram shown
- a gradual loss of color vision
- a dark or empty area appearing in the center of vision.