Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the breakdown of the macula, which is a small, but very important area in the back of the eye. The macula provides the sharp, central vision we need for reading, driving and seeing fine detail. Macular degeneration can cause sudden and severe loss of vision in the middle of your visual field. It usually does not affect peripheral vision. AMD related vision loss usually begins in one eye, but it may affect the other eye later. Central vision problems are more obvious if both eyes have macular degeneration.
- Blurred vision: Those with non-exudative macular degeneration may be asymptomatic or notice a gradual loss of central vision, whereas those with exudative macular degeneration often notice a rapid onset of vision loss
- Central scotomas: which are shadows or missing areas of vision
- Distorted vision: (i.e. metamorphopsia) which is when a grid of straight lines appears wavy, and parts of the grid may appear blank. Patients often first notice this when looking at mini-blinds in their home
- Trouble discerning colors: specifically dark ones from dark ones and light ones from light ones. Slow recovery of visual function after exposure to bright light
- A loss in contrast sensitivity: or the visual ability to see objects that may not be outlined
Detection and Treatment
Your ophthalmologist can detect early stages of macular degeneration by giving you a simple vision test using a chart called the Amsler grid. Your doctor may also take special photographs of the eye called fluorescein angiography to find abnormal blood vessels under the retina. Treatment options vary, and clinical trials are underway for certain types of AMD.