Age-Related Macular Degeneration
What is AMD?
- Age-related macular degeneration is an eye disease that reduces vision by damaging the macula, the part of the eye that provides sharp, clear vision. The macula is located in the center of the retina, a thin layer of nerve cells inside the back of the eyeball. The macula focuses on your central vision, so damage to it can cause your vision to become dim or fuzzy. Straight lines may look wavy or curved. You may also notice a dark spot in the center of your field of vision. In most cases, peripheral vision remains clear. This loss of vision usually occurs slowly, so it is vital to monitor your vision and get frequent exams. Your doctor may send you home with an Amsler grid, a grid with a dot at the center used to monitor the progression of AMD.
How can AMD be treated?
- No treatment can reverse the damage caused by AMD, but there are treatments that can slow the progression and help minimize vision loss if the disease is caught early enough
- Your doctor may recommend vitamin supplements, such as ICAPS-AREDS, Ocuvite, or PreserVision, all of which may be found over-the-counter at your pharmacy
- Photodynamic therapy (PDT) involves an injection of light sensitive medication that then collects in the blood vessels under the macula. Your doctor will then use a laser to painlessly shine a light into the back of your eye, activating the medication, which will then form clots to seal off abnormal blood vessels and prevent further vision loss
- Lasers may also be used to shrink or destroy abnormal blood vessels through a special lens placed on your anesthetized eye
- Intravitreal injections may be performed on patients with more advanced AMD. This involves anesthetizing and sterilizing the eye, then inserting a very small needle into the eye to deliver a medication that combats vessel growth in the retina
- Glasses and contacts may be used to help make the most of your remaining vision
How can you cope with AMD at home?
- Check your vision in each eye using the Amsler grid provided to you by your doctor and call them right away if you notice any decrease in vision or wavy lines
- Wear sunglasses to block harmful ultraviolet A and B (UVA and UVB) sunlight
- Follow your doctor’s recommended medication regimen
- Include fresh fruits and dark green, leafy vegetables in your diet
- Quit smoking, as smoking can worsen AMD
- Position lighting away from your eyes and aimed at the object in which you want to focus
- Prevent falls by ensuring areas like stairs and entryways are well lit
- Make light switches easy to see by contrasting dark switch plates on light-colored walls, and light-colored switch plates on dark walls
- Use bold, black lettering to make visible labels, signs, and other markings
- Label your medications clearly
- Use a magnifier or large-print books for reading
When should you call for help?
- Your vision using the Amsler grid looks different than you are used to
- Sudden decrease in vision
- If you see flashes of light or new floaters, or if you see a “curtain” over your vision
- If you need help adjusting to reduced vision
- If you do not see as well as you think you should wearing eyeglasses or contact lenses